Oh memes. If I had been told in high school that I would be writing a mental health blog post about memes in my mid-20’s…-__-“ To a lot of millenials, memes are this childish source of humor that serve as a guilty pleasure. Most are hesitant to admit that they follow 17 different meme accounts, yet their Instagram algorithm has nothing but memes at the top of their feed. You may find yourself rolling your eyes at the very concept of memes, yet you literally just lol’d at one relating to a moth. In fact, you just tagged your best friend with depression in one relating to the perils of antidepressants. What’s going on here?
As silly as they are, memes may actually be doing some good for those struggling with mental health disorders. We know that social media can negatively impact your mental health in several ways, but it is also important to consider how it could be helping those who have mental health struggles. These are three of the following ways that mental health related memes can help those who are living with mental health disorders.
Memes help foster online communities of people who can relate to the struggles of mental illness. For several people who are debilitated on a day-to-day basis by mental illness, it can feel impossible to have any connection to someone who is going through what you’re going through. You may feel like a burden for reaching out to your friends whenever you’re in a dark place, so you crawl into your bed, and scroll through your feed. You see a funny/relatable mental health meme, you blow air forcibly out your nose, and double tap. What you also see are the thousands of other people who also liked the same meme, and the several hundred comments of people tagging their friends. Kind of hard to feel alone now, right?
Memes help start the conversation about mental health. It’s easy for me to talk to other social workers and counselors about mental health because they are so enmeshed within the culture. What’s more difficult is opening up with peers that don’t seem to associate with the mental health community at all. They may think that topics like depression or anxiety “kill the mood”. Those uplifting messages designed to motivate those struggling with mental disorders? Corny, cheesey, and disingenuous. And as someone who is directly connected with the mental health community, I find myself agreeing with these folk at times. It gets so old.
Let’s continue from the example I had in my last paragraph. You find this super relatable meme about depression, and decide to tag one of your close friends. You’re not as hesitant to bring up the topic of depression because it’s in meme form. They’re funny, and they’re used for entertainment purposes. You’re sending the message, “this meme is super funny because we relate to it--because we’re both struggling with mental illness that is debilitating as hell--but we’re in this together, so it’s way less hellish”. It doesn’t kill the mood because it’s funny, and it also doesn’t come across as disingenuous because it’s frank. It gets straight to the message in a way that only a person struggling with depression can adequately communicate.
Memes spread awareness of mental health issues to populations that otherwise wouldn’t know about these issues. Memes are helping start the conversation within populations of people who struggle with mental illness, and they are also extending this conversation to others who do not struggle with mental illness. We follow our friends on social media for a number of reasons: we went to middle school with them, we find their posts funny, we like shopping at their online store, we worked with them over the summer during high school. Social media allows a connection between different networks of people that would not have been connected otherwise. You may repost a mental health meme on your story, which is seen by almost all of your followers. They may click through to the source, and see the large amounts of people who have liked and commented on the photo. What this shows them is the reality of mental illness: it is widespread and rampant. The large numbers of people liking these photos signal a high level of relatability, meaning that there are large numbers of people who live with mental disorders. This outside recognition is great for the mental health community; it brings more awareness to the struggle, and shows the level of impact that mental disorders have on our population at large.
So before you pass judgment on a meme—especially one relating to mental illness—consider the benefits that it has for those in the mental health community. Your guilty pleasure may actually be helping those who feel debilitated by the impact of mental illness, so you may not have to feel so guilty about it after all!
Marissa Martin, Counseling Intern
For years, I have heard the word “goals” being spewn person to person, overhearing in conversation or through countless Instagram photos from those who are supposed to be people who influence us. Each time I heard this word, I cringed, and I wasn’t sure why until recently.
As the new year approaches, two things are likely happening: you’re beating yourself up for what you didn’t get done and the goals you did not accomplish this year and you’re planning on what you will do in 2019 because you have a “fresh start”. Take a moment to reflect on which mindset you are currently falling into.
The end of December often makes us feel guilty after reflecting on last year. Where did the time go? Why am I still fat? Why do I not go to the gym still? Why am I still in my dead-end job? Why am I still single? Why am I unhappy? The list continues. For many, the goals we had set did not come to fruition and you’re left beating yourself up or feeling guilty for the lack of progress you made in your life for the last 365 days.
When looking at a new year as an opportunity to start fresh, this can bring a lot of hope for many of us. We look at what we want to accomplish or achieve or what we want to do better at and we make goals accordingly. For many of my clients, these goals look something like this:
These are great aspirations, of course. However, these “goals” are concerning to me. My first question is “Why these things?” and my second question is “Why haven’t you already done these things?”
These goals listed above have no plan behind them. They are things that sound good, that bring a small amount of hope, but have no weight or bones to them.
Instead of making goals for yourself for an entire year, I encourage you and the people I work with to set intentions instead. According What are you wanting to be intentional about? Why are these intentions important to you? Are these intentions helping you create the lifestyle that is going to lead you to be fulfilled and happy with your choices, behaviors, relationship and thoughts? What steps do you need in order to be intentional in these specific areas?
We attach ourselves so much to the goals we set that we are just trying to cross them off our checklist in hopes that they will make us feel better about our lives or where we are at. Instead, creating intentions are helping you facilitate, create, and maintain behaviors that are allowing you to makes
steps to a fulfilling and meaningful life and lifestyle.
Here are some examples of what intentions could be instead of the goals listed above:
Set the intention of choosing healthier foods because it will make you better at work, in your relationships, and have more energy. “I will incorporate more vegetables into my meals because I know that I will feel better and feel fuller longer. I will feel happy with my decision to eat vegetables instead of guilty for eating processed food, chips, candy, sweets, etc. I will do this by grocery shopping weekly and meal planning so that I can prepare for the day and set myself up for success instead of being hungry and settling for fast food.”
...find my passion.
If you’re in a place where you don’t see yourself staying long-term, look at this step as a stepping stone or means to an end to take the pressure off yourself first. Next, how do you plan on “finding your passion”, really? Did you plan to meet with a coach? Seek business counseling? Maybe for this year, you can set your intention for trying things you wouldn’t normally try, stopping doing the things you don’t enjoy, and identify what you like about past careers to narrow down your search.
I would bet that this isn’t really your goal. I would imagine you don’t want to date just anyone. You probably want to go out with people who have some characteristics of someone who you think could be compatible with you. Instead of saying your goal is to start dating, try being intentional with the type of people you are going out with and where you are meeting them. Are you hoping to meet someone at church but never go? Maybe your intention could be to simply start going a few times a month. Are you more likely to meet someone online but have been dragging your feet to create a dating profile? Maybe your intention could be to sign up and actually use a 6 month membership to a dating site.
What intentions will you set?
It’s not enough to simply set goals. When we work so hard toward action steps to reach them and then come up short, we dismiss all the effort and healthy behaviors just because it didn’t add up to the overarching goal. Instead, look at your goal and identify what behaviors you need to do to get there. A goal would be to go yoga 5-7 times per week in the morning. Barriers to this goal could include staying up later than anticipated, starting bedtime routine late with the kids, and not getting things ready for the next day the night before. These are important to note. An intention, then, is to go to bed earlier and start the kids’ bedtime routine on time each night so you can get enough sleep to get up and do yoga, meditate, and get ready for your work day without being rushed. Here, we identified 3 barriers to reaching the goal and work backwards. You can do the same. Start 2019 feeling positive, keeping your thoughts in alignment with truth, and setting yourself up for success.
Robin Helget, LSCSW, CPT
"JUST because you took that detour does not mean you cannot do it."
Get in shape.
Americans flock toward the idea of self-improvement which is why I am willing to bet that one of these has made the top of your new year’s resolution list. In fact, year after year these are the most common goals made by American’s, but how many of us are able to stick to those goals? Unfortunately according to Forbes just 8% of us make it through the year and stay true to the goal we set out to accomplish.
It has nothing to do with our ability to achieve a goal either. Think back to a time when you set a goal and achieved it. Now think of another one. And another.
We have all set goals and achieved them, from going to school to running a race, so why do we struggle with making new year's resolutions stick? It has more to do with the goals you are setting than with you.
Here are some tips to help you make 2019 the year you set a resolution you can keep:
My 2019 Resolutions
I hope that the rest of your holiday season is filled with joy and that 2019 is a year that leaves you feeling like a more BA version of yourself.