allthemedia

The first meme I remember laid eyes was the Tom from MySpace one. A text block of a generic everyday occurrence over a picture of Tom from Myspace. At that point, I had no idea how big meme-ing was going to become.

Meme culture is prevalent in every corner of the internet today. Whether it is on Facebook for retail workers bonding over awful customers or on Twitter during award season, it is safe to say meme-ing is one of the funnest and funniest part of using the internet. But a recent phenomenon is the rising use of memes for people with mental illness.

Nowadays in 2016 people are becoming a lot more open about discussing mental illnesses in all forms including using memes. Log into Twitter on any given day and you will be greeted with people tweeting and retweeting memes about depression. To those who do not experience mental illness, it is weird and alarming how casual people can be about serious life threatening issues.

For me, the first interaction I had with mental illness in general was on Tumblr. As a young black Muslim queer and gender non conforming, I had a whole host of mental health issues. Being apart of the Tumblr community I was able to put a name to the things that were overwhelming me. I had friends from all over the world who experienced the same things as me and encouraged me when I was down. But it wasn’t till a few years ago where I felt the serious attitudes towards mental illness shift.

While I was used to long informative posts on mental illness and how to treat them, on Twitter it was a different ball game. Here people were unabashedly sharing memes about suicidal ideation and writing “lmao” at the end. I was wary at first but soon I was won over. I found myself joining in and sharing questionable humor on my depression. I was learning it was a great way to deal with my issues.

But while at times I found the no boundaries sort of atmosphere healing, it did strike me as a bit dark. I am all for humor lightening difficult times, but there has to be a limit. I felt that people substituted memes and social media for actual medical care which is highly dangerous. I guess there just has to be balance for it to be beneficial just like with everything in life.

But something that has been popular and a bit taboo is the rising use of “depression memes”. They’re usually tweeted and retweeted by millennials and teens who have all sorts of mental health issues. They can range anywhere from SpongeBob deep friend memes, reaction picture memes, or quirky tweets. Those types of tweets also tend to be extremely popular around 3 AM every night.
I talked to three different young people who all have mental illnesses and how they feel about meme-ing their depression away:

Elijah, 17
Mental Illness: Was depressed
Pronouns: He/him

1. Do you use memes in general and why?

Yeah, I would say I use memes pretty often. A meme enthusiast, if you will. I like them because they’re a quick and easy way to make a joke funnier or to express a certain feeling in a comedic way.

2. How do you feel about people using memes to deal with depression/ mental illness etc?

I feel that people using memes to deal with depression or other mental illnesses makes sense. Most people don’t feel very comfortable talking about their mental illness seriously, I definitely don’t. It can be cool in the way that it kind of shows that you’re not alone in experiencing what you’re experiencing because it definitely can feel that way a lot of the time. Like making jokes out of a bad situation, it makes sense.

3. I guess the argument people use to not joke about your mental illness is that its making light of it and romanticizing it? Do you think that it is a form of romanticization?

While it can be a way of coping for some I definitely do think it can be a form of romanticism. I haven’t been feeling depressed for the last few months and so when I see these memes about mental illness, a lot of the time I have a different response than I might have several months ago. A lot of them seem to imply that it’s a cool thing to be depressed or that using really unhealthy habits to deal with it is “dank.” I’m thinking of this one meme that depicts the “normie way” vs. the “dank way” of dealing with depression and the things listed under the normie way were all positive habits that actually can help significantly with one’s depression while those listed under the dank way were negative habits that do nothing really to help in that way. It just makes me think, “What the fuck?” I feel like the ones about suicide are also very messed up.

4. What are some of your favorite depression memes?

5. Overall do you thinking memeing your mental illness is healthy?

I think it all depends on how it’s used and if it’s just a little joke or actual romanticism, but overall, I don’t think memeing your mental illness is very healthy exactly.

Lila, 15
Mental illnesses: anxiety, depression, and misophonia
Pronouns: they/them

1. Do you use memes in general and why?

Yes, all the time because they’re good at communicating specific things and give a sense of community.

2. How do you feel about people using memes to deal with depression/ mental illness etc?

I think it’s good in the sense it removes stigma from talking about mental illness but bad in how it can make light of serious and dangerous thoughts/behaviors.

3. Do you think that it is a form of romanticization?

Not really, because I don’t really see memes that make it seem positive or fun.

4. Overall do you thinking memeing your mental illness is healthy?

It depends. It can be a way for people to express their struggle in a positive way, but it can also make (neurotypical) people ignore the seriousness of some things they see jokes about.

Jose, 19
Mental illness: depression and anxiety
Pronouns: He/they

1. Do you use memes in general and why?

Yes. I use them to talk to my friends, keep the mood light and talk about serious issues without having a horrible time

2. How do you feel about people using memes to deal with depression/ mental illness etc?

I think it is perfectly fine. To some people using memes when talking about mental illnesses is a way of dealing with their mental illnesses. I think we share experiences and thoughts on such dark talking points better with memes.

3. I guess the argument people use to not joke about your mental illness is that its making light of it and romanticizing it? Do you think that it is a form of romanticization?

4. What are some of your favorite depression memes?

5. Overall do you thinking memeing your mental illness is healthy?

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