Trigger warning; this article contains discussion of mental health issues and may not be suitable for some


Remember in primary school when after a busy weekend, someone would come in with a broken arm or leg and everyone would be so fascinated? We’d sign their cast, treat them with extra kindness, want to sit with them at lunch and keep asking how they felt. After the school day we’d tell our parents and make a wish that maybe we too could break an arm and receive all the attention (Moomey, 2016). They’d then scold us for wanting such and explain the pain that would come from an incident like that. So we’d keep quiet but secretly, we’d still wish that maybe it was us with the broken leg. Maybe it was us having their cast signed every break time or getting to leave for lunch 5 minutes early…


The above is likely an experience which many will be able to relate to. We might look back on our younger selves and be embarrassed that we once desired physical illnesses but the truth is, even when older, a lot of us are still doing the same thing with a slight difference. 


There’s now been an addition to the illnesses we may face; mental illnesses (World Health Organization, 2020). They may have also affected some of us in primary school but such illnesses tend to become more common in secondary and tertiary years of schooling. Some individuals may still have the same ‘broken arm’ mentality but now it’s a little bit different. Such attitudes can lead to the romanticisation of mental illnesses which is incredibly damaging. 


A mental illness is a health problem which drastically affects a person’s thoughts, feelings, behaviours, and interactions with other people (Australian Government, Department of Health, 2007). Common types include depression, anxiety and schizophrenia (DuBois-Maahs,2018). When these illnesses are romanticised, they are idealised and made to look appealing when in reality, such problems can lead to significant emotional health problems, and severe outcomes. 


This romanticism usually occurs on social media platforms e.g. Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr. Communities such as  #thinspo and #proana spread tremendously triggering content, often in the form of poetic imagery, melancholic video edits and supposedly “relatable” quotes. Whilst under the guise of spreading awareness, in reality, such pages promote self harm, sugarcoat severe conditions and romanticise mental illness (Yu, 2019).


Now these pages are undeniably influential. They disservice thousands of followers and amass millions of views – many of which are young, vulnerable, impressionable teenagers. People begin to desire mental illnesses. They believe that is is unique, quirky and aesthetic, a personality trait to define themselves by, an opportunity to gain the affection and attention which they so dearly crave, they are willing to suffer for it.


Another thing this leads to is inaccurate self diagnosis’. People begin equate missing breakfast to anorexia or believe that crying over a sad movie is depression. This is harmful as it reduces the severity seen in mental illnesses. Victims will not be taken seriously as their suffering will become equated to a trend. Sufferers will refuse to seek help as they believe their issues make them edgy and beautiful – they don’t want to lose that.


The rise in social media usage will inevitably result in a rise of harmful content. Report pages that promote self harm, educate friends who; “wish they had depression”, seek help when in need from the widely available sources which are also linked below. Destroying this narrative requires collective effort. We are all capable of making a difference through little but purposeful actions, which will one day produce a society where metal illnesses are not stigmatized or taboo.


Childline: 0800 1111
Beat:  0808 801 0677
Mind: 0300 123 3393



Australian Government, Department of Health. (2007). What is mental illness?. Available: Last accessed 06/04/21.


Jessica DuBois-Maahs. (2018). The Top Five Most Common Mental Illnesses. Available:,Depression,women%20more%20often%20than%20men.. Last accessed 06/04/21.


Jessie Yu. (2019). From Stigmatized to Sensationalized. Available: Last accessed 06/04/21.


Paige Moomey. (2016). Read This If You Wanted Crutches As A Kid. Available: Last accessed 06/04/21.


World Health Organization. (2020). Adolescent mental health. Available: health#:~:text=Mental%20health%20conditions%20account%20for,illness%20and%20disability%20among%20adolescents.. Last accessed 06/04/21.