Big Conversation: Mental Health In Media

Big Conversation is a monthly event run by Elephant in the Room, the QMU’s mental health campaign. Each month, they meet to have a conversation about an aspect of mental health and how this affects students. It’s a place free of judgement, offering students a chance to chat about how they are feeling and how they can help others at university. This month’s topic was mental health in the media and so qmunicate have recapped some of the main questions and points that were raised. 

What good can media do?
In recent years, there has been a notable shift in how people discuss mental health issues and, while there are negatives, this sort of large platform can do a lot of good when it comes to raising awareness and spreading positive messages. 

As mental health conversations are happening more frequently, do people with serious issues feel it’s being generalised and glossing over their illness?
– It’s important to normalise these things in conversation instead of neutralising the very real effects they have on people. 

– The concept of being “ill enough to seek help” is now being broken and we no longer have to let it get to the lowest point possible. 

– However, part of the struggle of mental illness is thinking that no one else knows what you’re going through, no one else understands; no matter how much we widen the conversation this factor may remain as something almost symptomatic of many mental illnesses. 

What about the contribution of media such as films or TV shows?

– You tend to only see the extreme of things and often don’t see, for example, a functioning person with some issues, which contributes to the idea of you yourself might fall into one of these extremes.

– Shows like “Please Like Me” view mental health as a part of living your life – you see someone suffering, but the character is also okay with it and able to go through life

– What makes it okay to show shocking things on screen? Often this depends on whether you’re showing mental health issues as a plot device or as a well-constructed message. For example, the difference between 13 Reasons Why and Bojack Horseman.

Trigger warnings – should they be given for everything or nothing?

– Content warnings could be better than trigger warnings, as it implies it’s about the content not the underlying trigger.

– Also, not facing triggering stimuli ever in absolutely any way might also not be helpful for your mental health because, often, you can’t control exposure to it. 

– Trigger warnings often give people the option whether or not to engage which can be important. 

– Sometimes this is used to avoid “uncomfortable situations” which takes away from actual triggers and actual trigger warnings which people might actually need

Good vs bad sides of social media

– Often this comes down to curating your own space. The fault isn’t necessarily in social media but in how we use it. Places like Instagram are only platforms and it’s how we, as a society, use it that is important. 

– It can also be encouraging to see people discussing the bad days on social media, as well as all the good days. 

– It’s very hard to stay disconnected when you may have family back home, especially in other time zones, as it can often be a way to connect to your support system. 

The next events are as follows: 

– The Big Conversation: MENtal Health – 8th November, 3-5pm – The Reflection Room
– The Big Conversation: LGBTQ+ Mental Health – 21st November – 3-5pm – QMU Meeting Room 4 

If you wish to attend either of these please keep an eye on the Elephant in the Room’s social media (@QMUelephant on Twitter, @qmuelephantintheroom on Instagram and Elephant in the Room on Facebook) for reminders. It would be lovely to see you all there for a nice, open chat about these things.

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