By Meg Sharma
Social media has become a huge part of our lives, from how we socialise and communicate with others, to the way to show our lives. With this, the rise of memes has followed, especially on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. A meme is a usually comedic text post, image, or video that tends to flood social media with recreations in a short space of time. Among this a recent trend has been depression memes, with jokes surrounding the mental health problem, it’s symptoms and the feelings that surround it.
On Facebook, a page called ‘Depression memes’ has over 520 thousand likes, with the Instagram equivalent receiving 14.9 thousand likes, and the hashtag #depressionmemes receiving over 58 thousand posts. Of course, not all posts and pages label their content, and many more posts receive ridiculous amounts of likes and shares. Has depression become a trend to laugh and joke about?
Memes have developed rapidly in the past few years. What once was a colourful background, with a repeated image and bold text (think socially awkward penguin, doge, and good guy Greg) can now be pretty much anything and has led to depression memes. Out of context, the images or text posts which often concern a lack of will to live, being unmotivated and other serious aspects of depression can come across as concerning, especially when the comedic element is added. It then becomes difficult to decipher whether someone is making light of their condition, or whether they are making fun of and joking about depression. If this is the case, then jokes about depression should be avoided to stop the mental illness from being perceived as a joke rather than a seen as a serious problem.
Many people use the jokes as a coping mechanism and as the first step in being open about their mental health. Arguably this is better than keeping quiet, but it is not a healthy way to deal with mental health condition, and often puts a halt on the conversation rather than opening it up. Some commented that joking has made the topic more difficult to approach, as people do not take them seriously, even if they may have suffered themselves. It is important that we make serious conversations as easy as possible to avoid further stigmatisation of mental health, as memes can give the incorrect insight to those who do not understand.
It is also important to make younger people aware that there are better ways to open, and that they understand that mental health is serious. As many schools still do not educate about mental health problems or have sufficient support for students, they may think what they see in a meme is what a mental health problem is, or may think that joking about it is the only way to cope with something difficult. Social media has a stronger impact on younger people’s lives, so it important that they don’t see depression memes and think they are a trend they should follow, as well as understanding how to be open with their feelings and mental health problems.
For those who suffer, it is important not to hide behind jokes or memes, and try to be more open about mental health. We must all strive to make sure memes and jokes do not become a path to further stigmatise mental health, but instead to open the conversation.