Have We Learned Nothing About Mental Health?
When the documentary, “Framing Britney Spears” was released, the world joined together in collective outrage. The fact that a young woman who was suffering from some form of mental health issues was treated the way she was gave us all a reason to look into certain behaviours with more scrutiny. Even Perez Hilton himself apologised for the negative coverage he gave her.
As someone who suffers from anxiety myself, watching the scenes of her being hounded by photographers while she simply wanted to pop into a shop or have a meal made me uncomfortable and anxious myself, so God knows what effect they had on her. When I was younger, I always thought I wanted to be famous. That all changed when I made a flippant comment on the Twitter of a lad who had just eviscerated his ex on social media and got piled on by football Twitter and told to kill myself. Luckily, once I had blocked that particular thread, it was easily forgotten about, and despite my mental health issues, I have the wonderful security of having a great set of people around me who look after me and care about my well-being.
People like Britney Spears did not have that luxury. She could easily mute one thread, but being as much in the public eye as she is, there are thousands to contend with every day. It’s all very well to say “don’t look”, but humans are curious about nature and it can be hard not to look when you know the whole world is talking about you.
Cries of “we must do better” dominated the mainstream and social media. It seemed like people were FINALLY taking into account how much what is said online can affect someone’s mental health. I’m sure I wasn’t the only person that breathed a sigh of relief and had the vain hope the world would be a better place for my friends’ kids. People were encouraged to talk. Helplines were shared. Many people online stated their DM’s were open to anyone struggling.
And then a few weeks passed.
The media honed in on a familiar target, due to a burst of publicity surrounding an interview a very famous couple wanted to do to get their point across. Before this, they moved across the pond to escape the press scrutiny of them. Regardless of Prince Harry being born into the Royal Family, it was Meghan Markle everyone was waiting to see open up to Oprah Winfrey, the interviewer or all interviewers. I think a lot of people, including myself, knew there would be a lot of press surrounding the interview. After all, she couldn’t even escape the press when she was living quietly in Canada with her husband, so it was a fair guess there would be a lot of speculation and publicity. Meghan has probably dealt with enough negative press to have quite a thick skin, however, there is a difference between negative, and vicious.
I always make my own decisions and judgements. The first time I decided myself I didn’t like Piers Morgan was when he told men with mental health issues to “man up”. This is incredibly damaging, especially to men, who are least likely to speak up if they are suffering. Piers has made it quite clear he has no understanding of mental health issues. His stance on the issue is his own opinion, his right. What he doesn’t have the right to do though, is to tell a pregnant woman that her mental health struggles are a lie. An exaggeration. That they don’t matter.
Freedom of speech is not freedom of consequences. You wouldn’t believe how many people suffer in silence because they are too scared to speak up about how they are feeling, for fear of being told they are being “dramatic”. What Piers did was essentially tell an entire set of people that what they are feeling is invalid. That they don’t matter. Unfortunately for Piers, he worked for an organisation with a huge mental health campaign and a lot of ties to mental health charities.
You might think that words don’t matter, but words matter a LOT to someone who is struggling with a mental health issue like depression or anxiety. Not only are Pier’s words damaging to a huge amount of people, what he said and how much support he is getting online truly is proof that in the last few years, but the vast majority of people also haven’t learned anything.
Apparently #BeKind only applies when the worst has already happened.