Your ‘Quirkiness’ Is Not a Mental Illness

Written by Nicola Wong

Within the media, there’s a lot of stereotyping and misuse of labels surrounding the topic of mental illnesses. In a world with social media and technology, it’s become easier to open up about mental health and raise awareness, reminding others that they’re not alone. We see influencers and celebrities opening up about their mental health and the particular challenges they’ve had, such as J.K Rowling who suffered from depression and the late Carrie Fisher’s bipolar disorder.

However, some see the attention these posts get and try to use a similar topic for their personal gain. We see movies creating characters suffering from mental illness. Take OCD, for example—while it’s displayed in media as tidiness or maintaining order, it’s so much deeper and more intrusive than that. Depression is highlighted and painted as a picture of constant tears and sadness; anxiety is sugar-coated with heavy breathing and acts of pacing around or sweating. The media presents a stereotype that may be relatable in some situations, endorsing the self-labeling and misunderstanding of mental illnesses and making people feel they have a free pass to say they have one when they don’t.

Mental illness has been turned into a personality trait, something to put in a social media description rather than a serious issue. When you turn it into something “quirky,” you’re telling people that having a mental illness is something you can control. It downplays the seriousness of those who do suffer from mental illnesses. You’re creating a false perception of the condition, which is all the more damaging to people who don’t understand it.

It’s almost as if mental illnesses have become trendy, and that it’s cool to be depressed. Saying you have anxiety makes you unpredictable and spontaneous; having bipolar disorder makes you intense.

No mental illness is cool. No mental illness is a character trait. No mental illness should be thrown around as if it were just a word descriptor like “I like coffee and tarts” in your social media biography.

So—are you truly ill, or are you just another person describing your behavior as a “quirky” mental illness?

Citations:

“Does Being Quirky and Unique Mean You’re Mentally Ill?” Not Crazy Podcast, episode 19. PsychCentral, psychcentral.com/blog/ep-19-does-being-quirky-unique-mean-you’re-mentally-ill/.

Gladwell, Hattie. “No, Mental Illness Is Not ‘Quirky’ It’s Debilitating and Needs to Be Taken Seriously.” Metro UK, ©2020 Associated Newspapers Limited, 1 Oct. 2017, metro.co.uk/2017/10/01/no-mental-illness-is-not-quirky-its-debilitating-and-needs-to-be-taken-seriously6965138/#:~:text=Saying%20a%20mental%20illness%20is,what%20it%20is%20%E2%80%93%20an%20illness.

Roberts, Kayleigh. “39 Celebrities Who Have Opened Up About Mental Health.” Harper’s Bazaar, ©2020 Hearst Magazine Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved., 14 Jan. 2018, www.harpersbazaar.com/celebrity/latest/g15159447/celebrities-depression-anxiety-mental-health/?slide=9.

An HKIS mental health initiative striving to destigmatize mental illness through education and to create a culture of understanding, respect, and support.