Mental health is important - one of the most obvious sentences you could probably think of. We know it is essential.
Most of us know what happens when mental health declines.
In case you don't know, here are a few things that are linked to poor mental health:
High blood pressure
Weakened immune system
Holy sh*t. But are we surprised? No, of course not.
Perhaps poor mental health isn't the correct term, though; perhaps it's better to say mental health needs a helping hand.
Mental Health Facts
Here are some quick mental health facts.
Mental illnesses can affect people of any age, race, religion, or income. Mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts a person's thinking, feeling, mood, and ability to relate to others and daily functioning.
Around 1 in 9 people in settings affected by conflict have moderate or severe mental disorders.
Rates of mental health workers vary from below 2 per 100 000 population in low-income countries to over 70 per 100 000 in high-income countries.
Where Do Content Creators Come Into This?
With so many websites, content creators, and businesses focused on mental health and wellness - how many are just cashing in on the MH pound? The same way many tried to cash in on the Pink Pound and the BLM movement.
A scroll through Instagram will give you the idea that every other person is doing something to improve their mental health. But how much is bullsh*t?
The jam croissant and the hot herbal tea, the perfectly posed 'reading a book on mental health' photograph, bubbles in a bath, or a night away in a hotel -gifted by the hotel PR company, naturally.
The photo is perfect, the caption flawless. A spectacularly delivered picture of how they improve their mental health with a simple pillow, and you can too for £7.99 with free p&p using code EMMAJAYE10 (this is fictional, and if it's your name, I'm sorry - I don't mean you.)
But is that just giving the impression that everyone dedicates countless hours to mental health in the form of a nap, a bath, and a well-lit session reading? Yet, there's not a single antidepressant or therapist in sight?
After all, it's fast to share a fashionable quote about meditation and put on yoga pants. But it takes actual time and cares to get into a space that you're meditating, continuously and with purpose - because you see a positive impact on your mental health and because your therapist recommended trying to quiet your thoughts.
And then I have to ask...If 100 people post positive mental health quotes, how many are doing it just for the likes? Knowing that a percentage of their viewers need the support, is it willful ignorance or absolute obliviousness?
Is it Performative Content?
There is a sneaky thing called green-washing. If you don't know what that is, it is when companies wax lyrical about the number of natural materials or organic items in their products (even if it's the lowest % of an ingredient) to sell it to people trying to be conscious of what they buy - aka going green. They are fooling the reader and consumers into believing they are doing more good than they are.
Comparatively, a content creator experiencing one slightly sad day (the lowest % of their 'ingredient'), then selling it in a caption to people who are really trying to find some semblance and peace. In the form of carefully curated mental health content, could it be seen as performative mental-health washing? For want of a better word.
We know for sure that we are being thrown a lot of toxic positivity in recent months, and the blanket of 'be kind' rather than have difficult and meaningful conversations.
"What you're saying is racist, and I suggest you read up on the history of that word"
"That's not very nice, is it? Calling me racist, I thought we were supposed to 'be kind', but you are name-calling?!"
Thus turning the tables and accusing someone who is simply trying to educate of being cruel.
The rise in real mental health visibility and spaces online can be nothing but a good thing; it gives people who need to talk a place to do so. The online world is perfect for making friends and finding supportive networks. But the online world is also heaving with people doing performative work. And some of that was seen recently with Black Lives Matter.
Performative content is damaging and not always easy to spot. It's basically providing lipservice on a topic without action. For example, posting a black square with no follow-up of donations, petition signing, reading, research, and action. It's simple to look good.
In the case of many online creators, appearance is everything.
There is harm in the performative actions, but how deep is that when it comes to performative mental health posting?
Much like toxic positivity, this mental health fakery and rose-colored standards can be too much for those looking for answers.
A swathe of accounts talking about self-care being a nice hot bath and brunch with their besties. All in a soft pink-pastel aesthetically pleasing edited square.
While for many people, it's much deeper, it is not having the energy to move a hairbrush, eating, or simply finding a reason to be alive for the next 24 hours.
People who are trying their best might feel like their best is not good enough and set some wildly unrealistic expectations. Can lighting a candle change your mental state? Y'know what, maybe just a little. But there is a creator out there right now editing the shadows out of a photo to promote a candle to people who need something that you can't get from wax infused with rose oil.
In fact, readers might be questioning why when buying the candles, the fluffy socks, the latest book, a Netflix binge, and a bath, they still feel like moving from their bed takes more than they have to give.
Let's face it; many content creators live lives far removed from our own. Yet we still shouldn't dismiss they have their own battles because then we're just as bad. But there are some content creators out there providing a real service, signposting to mental health help, open DMs for those who need to talk, and honest captions.
Then others who capitalize on sadness, obsession, loss, and loneliness to bump their affiliate income and secure those wellness collaborations.
I think I want to end this by saying :
If you create content, please consider the following-
If you don't have depression, on a bad day, you're sad, not depressed. And if you don't have OCD, you're not a little bit OCD; you like to organize and tidy. Be mindful of what you're saying. Consider that when you're pitching a relaxing cup of tea as the 'antidepressant,' everyone needs for £15.99 that you're cashing in on someone else's real health issues.
Brands aren't off the hook here, often riding the wave of the mental health keyword trends and opting for a lifestyle content creator with the right numbers and rarely the right experience. Hold them accountable too. When we know better, we can do better.