After having binge-watched many TV series recently, including 13 Reasons Why and Prison Break (for the second time), I have since binge-watched interviews with the actors to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes – I couldn’t get enough of them! In my YouTube hole, however, I came across interviews that were addressing mental health. The subject at the core of 13 Reasons Why is suicide and Wentworth Miller, who plays Michael Scofield in Prison Break, has also spoken openly about his own struggle with depression. These interviews have not only made me more aware of the stigma that surrounds mental health but they have highlighted exactly why it is so important that this stigma is destroyed.
One of the issues that are addressed in 13 Reasons Why is the detrimental effect that social media can have on our self-worth. Our generation has grown up with social media, with internet trolls and with the pressures of appearing ‘perfect’. This generation is the generation of guinea pigs, but do we even fully understand what we have created? Can we ever go back if or when this experiment goes wrong?
We should learn that social media is dangerous, that it supplies trolls with the freedom to hate and to hate openly, anonymously and with impunity. It is social media’s twisted nature, with all its social pressures, expectations and rules, that encourages people to ruthlessly chase fame. It drains them of empathy, sympathy and an understanding that they should, in fact, be refusing this contrived lifestyle and not shaming those who don’t fit within it. As addressed in 13 Reasons Why, the negative effects of social media are harming young minds. If social media is to continue to be used in such damning ways, do we really want our children to experience this?
Having said this, however, I also discovered an essay that Wentworth Miller published on Facebook responding to a body-shaming meme that was shared online. His post reveals that the photo was taken at a time when he was suicidal. He turned to food in search of ‘relief/distraction/comfort’. He continues to say, ‘when I see that image of me in my red t-shirt, a rare smile on my face, I am reminded of my struggle. My endurance and my perseverance in the face of all kinds of demons’. This message is incredibly empowering and it spoke to many people about different things, including suicide, depression and body issues. It was also posted on the very social media site that caused him pain, showing, for me, for the first time, the value of social media.
Miller’s Facebook post resonated with millions of people around the world and he has shown just how effective social media can be in the process of removing the stigmas attached to mental health issues. He has also instilled hope within me that social media can be transformed from a space that hates to a space that helps.
It was his words in a Q&A interview which I loved the most. Not only did he speak openly and honestly about his feelings of nervousness but he redefined what it means to live a balanced life. ‘Like a tightrope walker,’ we must balance between ‘openness and guardedness, confidence and vulnerability’ rather than desperately pursue a state of Zen, a state that, if ever found, is impossible to maintain. For me, and I’m sure for many other people too, his words are comforting and reassuring.
Ultimately, his advice on taking the time to self-care is something we all must listen to. ‘Talking to yourself in a way that is loving and supportive’ is something that we can all benefit from as we continue to combat the stigmas, trolls and haters and create a better world for us and our children.