Twitter Users’ Mental Health Stereotypes

March 24th, 2014 | Categories: Uncategorized

by Emily Brooks

“Schizophrenic psychosis, cognitive disorganization, impulsive non-conformity, spontaneous anti-social behavior. AKA another day on Twitter.” –tweet

I understand the issue from both sides.

I’ve felt disgusted and misunderstood when others claim they are “OCD” because they enjoy organizing their paperwork, and I’ve gotten upset when I’ve heard people talk about being “depressed” over the chocolate ice cream being gone when I’m too depressed to get out of bed. I have family members, friends, and acquaintances with just about every mental illness in the diagnostic manual, and I care about their feelings.

I’ve also misused mental health terms as descriptors and I regret this mistake and don’t want to make it again.

Undoubtedly, some social media mavens will think I’m being the word police and overreacting. But there are clear repercussions to misusing mental health disorders as adjectives. At a time when “I’m depressed” on social media means “My team didn’t win”, researchers just released a new public health strategy: using keywords and post timing to figure out if internet users are clinically depressed based solely on the contents of their tweets.  Just a little more than a month after  teenager with schizophrenia was allegedly shot to death by police in his own North Carolina home, Representative John Mica, a Republican from Florida, publicly criticized the Obama Administration’s take on pot by saying, “We have the most schizophrenic [marijuana] policy I have ever seen.” 

Where do we go from here? For years now, there have been well-publicized movements against misusing “gay” everyday speak. The “Spread the word to end the word” campaign is gaining constant momentum to respect members of the intellectual/developmental disability community by not saying “retarded”. Why not extend that mission to eradicating all mental health terminology misuses? Our society is so highly influenced by “social media”, the conglomerated public opinions of our peers and idols. Instead of wading through misinformation and stereotypes, let’s use platforms like Twitter to spread truth and compassion about mental illness… and increase, not diminish, understanding for those of us with mental health issues.

This post is part five in a five part series. Visit posts from the previous four Mondays to read more of this discussion. Also, please check out more content by Emily Brooks at her blog Changing Perspectives About Gender, Sexuality, and Disability Through Writing.

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