Monday, 8 January 2018

If we don't call out stigma, how can we challenge it?

Most of you probably noticed that there's been a lot of outcry over Youtubers and 'mental health awareness' lately.

From Logan Paul to Jack Jones, US and UK Youtube stars were among the latest batch of Youtubers to make offensive mental health comments over the last week.

Logan Paul hit international headlines after showing a suicide victim in one of his videos watched by millions of kids.  Thankfully, because we're a society that is trying to increase awareness of mental health issues and defeat the stigma around them, there was outcry. Paul was immediately criticised on Twitter and forced to issue an apology. He did not however take the video down, instead amassing millions more hits than he was likely to gain without any outcry.

A man who died by suicide was belittled to nothing more than a form of entertainment and gossip. 
Similarly Jack Jones' advice to people with depression is to 'be happy'. Tell your depression 'to jog on'. Thanks mate, I'll try that next.

Imagine those teenagers who haven't yet told their friends about their depression. Imagine those young people being told that they can easily get over it. That it's not a real battle. Imagine their friends sharing this. Trusted figures have a responsibility to their followers, and this oversimplification of an illness showed the lack of respect he has towards educating or starting a real discussion on mental health.

This is not just a Youtube phenomenon. Celebrities and politicians put their foot in it every day. This is nothing new. But the backlash is. Social media allows us to instantly hit back at those in trusted positions and vent our disgust or anger. And who is in a more trusted position than the Youtuber parents allow their children to watch every day?

Following the Logan Paul controversy, Chrissy Teigen hit back at the outcry and tweeted "should we really be trying (to) ruin their lives and end their careers or accept the apology, personally make a choice to stop watching, and move on."

But doesn't that miss the point entirely?
If we don't call out stigma, how can we challenge it?

Paul posted the video and didn't think he did anything wrong until it was pointed out. Until his followers, and thousands that never would have heard of him until this issue, told him that he was insensitive and potentially dangerous, he didn't care. His non-apology about 'raising awareness' shows his lack of knowledge or basic research into a very sensitive subject. You cannot raise awareness by showing a lifeless body. Paul was called out to show not only him, but all his followers that what he did was wrong, and to explain why, highlighting the need for sensitivity around a very delicate and dangerous subject.

There is a line of course. And in that respect Chrissy Teigen has a point. Threats and hate messages cross that line. There is a difference between calling something out and resorting to bullying.

But Logan Paul and Jack Jones needed to be called out. And that's not a bad thing. Despite their complaints, you should never feel guilty for having stood up against the stigma, because in doing so you're standing up for all people with a mental illness.

Sending them hate messages though? Yeah, you should feel very bad for that.

Until next time,

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