Gen-Z Romanticizes Mental Illness, it’s not Good

Common Discussion of Mental Illness Online can Influence Teens Views


Jackie Reyes

Social Media has a great impact on how people, especially teens, perceive mental illness.

Jackie Reyes, Reporter

Gen-Z has brought a lot of awareness towards mental health and mental illnesses and brings great efforts towards normalizing them. But there’s a major problem that has appeared. In the effort to destigmatize mental illness, we have created a society where it’s romanticized. 

In today’s society, creating a new normal is a common goal. In the past, people were scared to admit they had depression or anxiety. But recently, the shame associated with mental illness has dissipated, but that’s exactly the issue. Having anxiety attacks is deemed as a quirky character trait and suffering from depression adds some spice to life. However, mental illness can have a serious impact on someone’s life and can be hard to speak about. And to make matters worse, it can now be harder to admit when there is so much stigmatized glamour around it.

Television has a history of including characters that deal with mental illness, usually being characterized as violent, dangerous or unstable. Recently, there are more accurate representations of mental illness, such as in “Shameless” and “This Is Us,” but some just don’t meet the mark. The controversial “13 Reasons Why” is an example of a bad representation of mental illness. Not only was there minimal mention of a mental illness, but the main character’s suicide was also framed as revenge. This can be harmful because 90% of those who’ve died of suicide had an underlying mental illness, according to NAMI. This can affect the minds of kids tremendously, giving them a false depiction of what suicide is and what has to happen to lead up to suicide.

Music is a significant factor in romanticizing mental illness as well. Billie Eilish is an artist who is known for her questionable and angsty lyrics that can affect impressionable teens in the worst way. With lyrics such as “I wanna end me” in “bury a friend,” the depressive mantra can leave a negative effect on her listeners. Rather than accuse Eilish of profiting off young teens or state she is in as a cause of the romanizations, it’s safe to say that her broad fanbase reveals this generation’s trend to romanticize mental health disorders. The portrayal of suicide and depression as tragically beautiful in such poetic lyrics is dangerous because it only inspires teens to desire and glorify mental illness.

Social media plays a big part in the romanticization of mental illnesses. A platform where it is a problem is Tik Tok. Mental health is a big topic among users, but there are times where mental health gets portrayed incorrectly. Falsely depicting mental illness can become an issue when it detracts from the seriousness and depth of it. People downplay the importance of their mental illness and it can make mental illnesses seen as glamourous or desirable. Self-harm, panic attacks and thinspo are made out to be admirable in spaces such as “edtwt” (eating disorder twitter) for example. Social media can compromise someone’s mental state when harmful ideals are encouraged. Mental illness affects different people in different ways, but it’s not something to glorify on the internet.

Other social media platforms also allow unfiltered discussion of mental health problems. While it can help people feel not alone, these discussions can lead to harmful topics. Living in the technology age, it’s getting harder and harder to prevent young teens from seeing these discussions or images. Images or mentions of self-harm get often brought up in these conversations, and it can influence people into thinking harming themselves is an effective way to reduce the pain. While awareness should be brought towards self-harm, direct exposure to it isn’t the right way.

The sensationalism of mental illness takes away the focus from the real struggles. The problem is that people aren’t asking for help because their issue is seen as a trend, and they’re following the crowd. That false idea of mental illness can make sufferers who reach out, not get taken seriously. 

As society moves forward, it’s important for the glorifying and normalization of mental illness to stop. Now don’t get me wrong, mental illness should be normalized but not as in “everyone has one,” but as in “you are not alone.” We as a society should bear in mind that destigmatizing mental illness shouldn’t cross the line into romanticizing it.  

I recommend the following resources and social media pages that can help with mental illness and mental health.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

NAMI Ending the Silence


The Depression Chronicles 

Real Depression Project