Although mental health is being spoken about more publicly in the last few years, many still see it as a major stigma, with conditions such as anxiety or depression still, unfortunately, being seen as a weakness in the eyes of many. As a young adult who has dealt with such issues for the majority of my living memory, I am lucky enough to be present at a time when our society starts to turn a corner and acknowledge mental illnesses for what they are - illnesses. The world health organisation now reports that 1 in 4 people will experience some degree of mental disorder at some point in their lives, and these can include conditions such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, eating disorders, addiction, and OCD - amongst numerous others. Whether it’s an increase in awareness or a growth in courage to step forward and acknowledge when something’s not right, more and more of us are beginning to tell our stories, and with this, we have started a very important discussion. Despite this surge in recognition, one of our biggest sources of information and entertainment, the media, still seems to lack a great representation of the issue, but there are a few key players that are starting to weave their personal experiences into their chosen art form, and today I'm going to talk about two of the most prominent - in my eyes at least.

"1 in 4 people will experience some degree of mental disorder at some point in their lives" - WHO

Someone that has been really key in the representation of mental illnesses in the media, love her or hate her, is Lena Dunham. No joke, every time I watch the season two finale of her hit show ‘Girls’, I break down and become a blubbering mess; I feel so incredibly vulnerable because what Lena’s character, Hannah, goes through hits home so, so hard. Hannah finds herself relapsing into a state of heightened OCD similar to what she dealt with when she was younger, and the vulnerability and despair that she expresses through the screen is all too familiar.. Although I have never experienced any degree of OCD before and have instead dealt with varying degrees of anxiety and depression, Hannah’s regression into old habits and dangerous emotions feels hauntingly familiar. Seriously, if you haven’t seen that episode I implore you to watch it - it gives such a real and rare insight into the tortured mind of someone battling against an intense bout of any variation of mental illness. It’s certainly some raw stuff, so warning to those who may feel a bit fragile at the moment.

Image sources: 1, 2

“But I'm holding on for dear life, won't look down, won't open my eyes. Keep my glass full until morning light, 'cause I'm just holding on for tonight” - Sia, 'Chandelier'

You know who else really toys with my emotions and is willing to talk (or sing) about her troubles? Sia. I’m a huge fan of pretty any music that that talented woman plays any part in creating, but a few of her recent songs have the ability to transport me to places I’d rather forget; they stir up emotions that years of repression have buried. This may sound rather dangerous, but isn’t that what music’s all about? Evoking emotions and transporting us to distant times and places? Listening to her carefully scripted lyrics makes me feel that I’m not alone, despite how isolating mental illnesses can be. Take perhaps my one of my favourite lines from Sia’s song Alive - “I had a one-way ticket to a place where all the demons go, where the wind don’t change, and nothing in the ground can ever grow” - I can’t even describe just how real this is, how deeply it resonates with me. Do you know why Sia’s lyrics can be so powerful? She has spoken briefly in the past about her struggles with both alcohol and drugs, as well as her bipolar disease, so her authentic words are exactly how so many of us are feeling or have felt, but have never been able to put into words. Another example of Sia’s personal struggles can be found in her hit song Chandelier, where she sings “But I'm holding on for dear life, won't look down, won't open my eyes. Keep my glass full until morning light, 'cause I'm just holding on for tonight”. If any of you out there have ever struggled with an addiction at any point in your life, then I’m sure that these lyrics seem eerily appropriate. For me, the entire song embodies my addiction with self-harm, and even to this day can stir up some of those repressed emotions that like to creep out in the middle of the night. Despite the powerful effect that these topics can have, I am so grateful to Sia for using her painful past experiences to make such captivating art - it helps to remove the big no-no around the topic of mental illness and addiction, and allows the ever-growing number of us that are struggling or have struggled at some point to realise that we are far from being alone and that not only is speaking about it fine, but it truly should be encouraged.

Who do you consider to be important spokespeople for mental health in the media? Do you find it helpful that more people are starting to speak out about their struggles? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below :)

Post a Comment