April 29, 2010


One thing that has really frustrated me ever since I joined LiveJournal seven years ago is the prevalence of communities devoted to "thinspiration". Thinspiration is the triggering material that people with eating disorders use to inspire them to become thin, often photos of emaciated celebrities. The people that are members of these "thinspo" communities (and other thinspiration websites and blogs) don't see themselves as having an illness that could kill them, they view it as a positive lifestyle choice and post encouragement for each other to keep up disordered eating habits.

I find myself becoming upset and concerned about how many devoted members (many of which are young teenage girls) are going out of their way to exacerbate their disorders or even creating the disorders if they didn't already have an eating disorder. I understand the fact that they do not view their eating disorders as an illness or a problem, so perhaps my problem isn't with them. Perhaps my problem is with the fact that these sites, blogs and communities are allowed to exist when they do no good at all.

We can argue that these websites also provide an environment where people with eating disorders can talk and feel understood. I think it is important when dealing with mental health issues that we don't feel like we are in it all alone, but those communities can be provided without containing triggering material.

Perhaps I just have problems sitting by and watching while people pave a path of self-destruction when recovery is a viable outcome for so many. I find myself angry that we live in a society where our physical appearance is so important to the way others treat us and the way we view ourselves. It really is a bit of a cliche to say that it is all because of the media, but perhaps it isn't untrue. Everywhere around us we see thin celebrity poster girls for clothing ranges and hysterical propaganda about the obesity epidemic. In this day and age there is a petrifying fear of being fat.

We aren't taught to love ourselves and each other for who we are, no matter what we look like, we're taught to see fat people as being bad and unhealthy people. We're teaching our children from an early age to worry about being fat. We're teaching them that to be beautiful you must be a small size and wear certain clothes.

We are all individuals and we are all beautiful, no matter what we look like.

Anyone can have a mental illness, even you.

Our small local paper rarely has much of interest except a whole lot of inflamed opinions, and yesterday's paper was no different, really. You see, the locals are afraid of the crazies who would be in a facility they're planning on building in the rural area outside of town. You can read the entire article (and the many ridiculous comments) here.

I was shocked that someone genuinely believed that this facility was a bad idea in a town where there is a whole lot of not much in the way of mental health services, and that they also believed that the clients in this facility would break out, take their money and then "God knows what else". It seems so ludicrous in this day and age of heightened awareness of mental health (thanks to organisations like BeyondBlue, Headspace and ReachOut!) that people could still harbour such hysterical opinions.

Then I started being shocked that these people could have so little compassion or empathy for other human beings with mental illness and other disabilities. It seemed... well, crazy to me that people were still so afraid of mental illness when one in five Australians will suffer from one in any one year. Mental illness does not discriminate based on age, race, social standing or gender. It can affect anyone at all, and there is a high chance that someone you love will be affected by a mental illness at any time in their life.

Based on those few simple facts it seems even more absurd that anyone can have such a negative view of those with mental illnesses. So why do people still have these opinions? Quite simply because they could never think a mental illness could happen to them, and they often have very little knowledge of understanding on the subject. The most exposure to mental illness they have ever had was in the newspaper, and this younger generation has a much different view on mental illness than the older one does because of increasing amounts of education starting to appear in the media.

My own father has confusing and out-of-date knowledge of the subject of mental illness, and I became aware that a lot of the things he said that were the wrong things to say where because of his own ignorance, not out of any desire to be hurtful. He just hadn't had the same education that I had on the subject.

Perhaps the local Bees Creek community would not be reacting in such a strong way to the proposal of a mental health facility in their area if they were all given more education about mental health. It sounds so simple, but how do you educate an entire population of people who have old and strong opinions on the subject? I don't know the answer, but I hope that some day someone will because mental illness is such a common health problem in our local communities, no matter where in the world you are living.

It is also important to remember that anyone can have a mental illness, even you.

The Talking Crazy

My name is Alice and I have a mental illness. I aim to use this blog to talk about everything to do with mental health and to raise awareness and understanding. I want to shatter the stereotypes that society has about mental illnesses and I want to make people think a little more deeply about these issues.

I will share my feelings about certain representations of mental health in the media, talk about my opinions on certain hot topics and just generally vent my spleen.

I am not a mental health professional, or any kind of expert, but I do have some first hand experience and a whole lot of passion!

I hope you enjoy reading my blog.