Memes Can Do More Than Just Mock: Memes Used to Spread Awareness About Depression, Anxiety, and Mental Health

By Amy Rudolph
Elm Staff Writer

To the joy of some and dismay of others, the meme craze has stuck around and pervades many facets of our lives. There are many light hearted memes such as success kid and the smol pupper genre. But then there are also darker ones that pop up from time to time. The users who create those memes begin a dialogue that some may want to ignore while others believe it is important. Recently, memes joking about depression, anxiety and other mental health issues have begun to pop up on sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. A majority of the memes originate from Tumblr and are recycled elsewhere.
Most of these memes could be summarized under the category, “concerning yet funny.” Upon reading the more startling posts about the author’s struggles with mental health, they create a cause for concern in which, though the audience is laughing, they are wondering if the author is okay. One instance of this is in a popular meme that says, “I keep losing these things,” and features car keys, a wallet, a TV remote and then just a text box that reads, “my will to live.” This one meme has over 285,000 notes on Tumblr.
These memes are spread so casually to the point that it is easy to start to wonder how these, typically young, college aged, people can be so free to discuss these problems using comedy on the Internet in front of millions of strangers.
When those battling mental health problems such as depression and anxiety see posts such as these, they can relate to the author as well as with all of the users reacting to it, especially those who shared it. This display shows the audience who may be dealing with these issues that they are not alone, and that many people are affected by it as well. Seeing others in the same boat as you also validates your feelings so you don’t feel like you are overreacting or going crazy.

Things you lose
“Concerning yet funny” memes are very popular on various social media sites like Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter.

The younger generation now is far more open about mental health issues than previous generations, helping young people not be sucked into ignoring their problems like many in the past have. In the past decades, and even today, the stigma around depression and anxiety disorders made people go untreated out of fear of being considered crazy. This led to many people living in a world they felt did not understand them. With increased knowledge of these problems and more people being willing to admit that they were facing these issues, the dialogue has become far more developed and less one-sided to where it is not just the scientific community understanding these complexities, but almost all Americans.
Due to increased understanding and more acceptance, the younger generation is not as afraid to admit that they may have a problem that they need addressed. Those who do not wish to seek formal help and may just want a friend to talk to about their feelings can be better connected to people who are feeling the same thing. This helps foster connections between people even if they live halfway around the globe.
Some may call posting these memes a cry for help or attention. But even if that were the case, that’s completely okay. If someone wants people to notice that they are suffering, they can do so if they choose. It can be hard to initiate a conversation about something so serious and these memes can become easier stepping stones to facing the topic.
The meme culture is also healthy by using the humor as a form of coping. People react differently to negative occurrences all the time; some people cry, some people talk about them and others make jokes. Because so many people use humor as a coping mechanism, the humorous memes can be used to link likeminded individuals who all use humor to discuss their issues. Even if someone did not think to use humor immediately, after seeing these posts they may feel more free to see the humor that can be drawn from their situation and make it easier to resolve.
These memes facilitate such important awareness to the struggles that people face every day, even if they don’t show it. It helps friends check in on one another and discuss their feelings in a more open and caring environment, and helps kickstart a conversation. Social media can be used to connect people of many different backgrounds and these posts may offer someone reassurance that there are thousands of others out there from all walks of life that are going through similar struggles. The meme culture may annoy some but to others, it may be the key to freely discussing real aspects of their lives.

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