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Mental health: a matter of communication

Mental health: were we better off when we were worse off? Today is international mental health day. A chance to stop and reflect on how important it is to take care of not only one’s outer self, but also one’s inner self. But what if one’s aesthetic qualities are the reason for their mental anguish? 

The images we are used to seeing online often lead to a distorted view of our true selves. We wish to be skinnier, more athletic and in general more like the images we see whilst scrolling through Instagram or TikTok. This was the theme the recent Barbie movie chose to tackle, by trying to revisit and ratify the “Stereotypical Barbie” trope. 

Natural beauty trend

One of the companies that has always spoken out in defence of natural beauty, fighting all sorts of stereotypes is Dove. This year’s campaign is called “the cost of beauty: a true story”. The company intends to discuss how the presence of young people online is a topic that deserves to be treated seriously since being online can change and influence their minds. Online since the age of 12, treated for 7 different pathologies, in recovery at 19 years old. This is Mary’s story in brief. One theory presented by Vivek Murthy, General surgeon and chief executive of the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, states that teenagers who are online for more than 3 hours a day are twice as likely to develop anxiety or depression. 

It’s important, however, to not jump to extremes, social-media is a double-edged sword for all of us, including the very young.

“Uno bravo” (the right person) for your mental health

Among the most popular social-media accounts in Italy “Uno bravo” has emerged as one of the largest. “Uno bravo” is a clever play on words which translates to “the right person”. It refers to the popular saying “you need the right person to cure you”, the account provides a psychological counselling service to users. These days the account is trying to sensitise people to the fact that it’s not the thoughts that are wrong, perhaps one only needs a professional to talk to. This is also one of the perks of social media: it connects, unites and informs people.

Raising awareness of mental health issues is and has been fundamental for overcoming stigmas.Communication campaigns, TV shows watched by young people but also social-media accounts that help kids understand that we’re all different, with different needs.

In the past mental health was taboo: as of not so long ago when someone talked about a mentally ill person they would have probably imagined a screaming man or woman, who heard voices. This image is filled with preconceptions and made to be a spectacle centred around the idea of not being “strong enough” to withstand certain moments in life. But this is and isn’t the case. We must distance ourselves from the idea of “doing whatever it takes to feel good”, pretending that everything is fine. We must raise our voices and speak up, letting go of preconceptions and prejudices. The real question becomes: were we really better off back when we were worse off or did we just not speak up about it back then?

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Erika Zaffalon

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