The road to hell is paved with good intentions, even at the cost of another’s life.
The stigma around mental health has been one that’s never seemed to go away. For the longest time, it’s been a struggle for those to just simply open up about it, let alone grow aware of it.
But what exactly is mental health awareness? According to Betterup.com, “mental health awareness is the ongoing effort to reduce the stigma around mental illness and mental health conditions by sharing our personal experiences.”
It’s something rooted in good, for as of recent, mental health struggles and (sadly) suicide has been having a rise in recent years. According to the CDC, suicide is one of the biggest cause of deaths in just the U.S. alone. With it having a 36% increase throughout 2000-2021, and actual attempts almost doubling, it’s a cause for concern.
From the same study, their cataloged suicide rates are out of 4 age ranges, which are criminally high, with the highest being young adults aged 25-44 at a total of 33,567 from both male and female adults. With older adults aged 45-64 just as massive, at 30,300 total.
So, what does the internet have to deal with this?
The internet opens up social circles and social media, thus discussion about subjects not everyone in person always talks about. Mental health is one of many.
However, this doesn’t mean the end result of something like social media and other circles could bring up mental health awareness positively. It gave platforms to both people with mental health issues, but has brought up bad apples in the process.
Another peculiar case is the trends– multiple cases of devices made for those who need it, only for that to be taken away and to be turned into nothing but a collectable.
Not to mention, with the rise of social media (specifically TikTok) it made mental health a trend. With every few millions of people sharing their experiences, there’s thousands more that lie about their own to get similar attention, even just straight up faking mental disorders.
Lies and Deceit
A “trend” popular among the increase of social media goes under “fake disorder cringe,” a phenomenon where people on TikTok would fake their mental disorders.
Faking mental disorders isn’t something new. In fact, it’s a disorder in of itself, called “Factitious Disorder.”
“A recent surge in factitious disorder has taken place online, where faked or exaggerated illnesses range from autoimmune deficiencies to leukemia – and, notably, Tourette’s syndrome and dissociative identity disorder.” WebND.com details.
The New York Times reports the uptake in mental health diagnosis– specifically self-diagnosis, with the “assistance” of TikTok’s mental health side. Which could be for the worse.
“Ms. Hawkins’s son, Ronan Cosgrove, 16, who has been on TikTok for about four years, said that among some of his peers it has become trendy to identify with a mental health disorder. For them, he added, it is considered a personality trait rather than something you want to heal.
“On TikTok they show “Oh, I’m this, and look at how cool I am,’ and then people will look up to those people — and it’s just so skewed and not, like, reality,” Ronan said. “It’s so easy to get roped in.”
Kids are searching for a community, and are using their current struggle with mental health symptoms as a way to find like-minded people, sometimes wearing their symptoms as a badge of pride or a shorthand way to explain themselves to others, Dr. Prinstein said.
And some adolescents may seek mental health information online because the adults in their lives are not open to talking about it.
“It’s incredibly disheartening,” he added.”
Further in the article, they showcase a study done by JMIR and the increase of the hashtag #mentalhealth on TikTok.
According to JMIR, the first 100 videos they analyzed averaged 1,354,100,000 views, 266,900,000 likes, and 2,515,954 comments.
“Over 60% of the videos in this study had associated comments that were supportive and validating; this can signify the importance of the TikTok platform and the hashtag #mentalhealth as a possible “just-in-time” source of social support and personal validation that is made available without the need for planning, scheduling, and financial remuneration.” They later detail, “Notably, comments that depict coping strategies were not overly common; they were apparent in about 10% of the videos with high numbers of collective views.”
60% seem to buy into the videos, often with people exaggerating and/or faking disorder symptoms, with barely a 10% seeming to want to help, sharing coping mechanisms. With almost an average of 1,350,000 views, it’s a formula that works for the TikTok algorithm.
This however, doesn’t mean that people are oblivious to people faking their conditions online. As a matter of fact, people are more than aware. It’s become a warped trend, and in turn, something to be mocked.
An Internet Rabbit Hole
When looking up “TikTok faking disorders,” some of the first results are “fake disorder cringe” compilations, a subgenre on YouTube where people would compile infamous examples of people faking their conditions.
TikTok compilations are already super popular on YouTube, typically ranking at least millions views. But these were special, in the sense it’s been a widespread issue that’s only been making rounds recently, but they only average 400,000 views.
There’s more than enough stand alone YouTube videos that cover individuals infamous for faking their mental conditions, especially those on TikTok. These videos typically do better than the compilations in terms of viewership, each breaking at least 1 million views.
A bigger example of this is a TikTok account called TicsandRoses. An account known for faking Tourette’s syndrome whilst advertising their shop, as if they were using the condition to drive attraction to the business. After being called out, the account was taken down off the face of TikTok.
However, it isn’t just YouTube that is aware of such internet lies. Reddit is also a prime factor with the awareness of these fakers with the start of r/FakeDisorderCringe, a Subreddit dedicated to cataloging the instances of people even outside of TikTok faking their conditions.
So What Does This Have to Do With Mental Health Awareness?
If the internet provided the vast, many spaces for people to come forward with their mental health struggles and experiences, then it provided an equally massive space for people to use to cheat their way to clout.
Along with the rise of awareness of people faking mental conditions, it makes it harder for people with those conditions to speak out, because people will see them as attention seeking fakers.
There’s been discussion about how the internet affects people’s mental health for a long time now. However, there’s another side to the coin here, how mental health affects your social media experience.
In this new age of being hyper aware of mental health fakers, being open about mental health will get you blasted for “faking it.” If anything, it’s working for the stigma of speaking about mental health.
What’s worse, suicide rates haven’t dropped since August 10, 2023 if USnews.com is anything to go by. “Overall, 49,449 Americans lost their lives to suicide last year, up from 48,183 deaths in 2021, the agency reported.”
“According to the latest CDC data, there was one glimmer of hope in the new statistics: An 8.4% drop in 2022 for suicides among the very young (ages 10 to 24), and a 6.1% drop among one group hit particularly hard by mental health issues and suicide, American Indian/Alaska Native people. Still, most demographics saw a rise in suicide rates.”