Why We’re Doing Mental Health Week
We’re launching Mental Health Week at BuzzFeed today because media can play a huge role — for good or for ill — in how people see themselves and understand their mental illnesses. We see it around the globe: a shift from seeing depression, anxiety, and other disorders as shameful personality flaws, and toward understanding them as the illnesses they are.
This is a great gift of the digital age: our ability to fight shame and isolation. When we have the courage to talk openly about ourselves, and about our struggles, the people who hear and see us don’t have to feel alone. And digital media has been central to driving the cultural change. We’ve found at BuzzFeed that some of the most powerful responses to our work have come from people who watched and read about mental health, and who felt less alone, less at fault.
“Watching this video made me feel less alone in a world where I so desperately long to connect with other people,” a viewer wrote of the BuzzFeed Violet video “What It’s Like Being an Outsider.”
Media can also combat the stigma that comes from a genuine lack of information: “Those of us with ADD can be so misunderstood and viewed negatively. I truly appreciate this effort to help others see that they’re not alone and for those around them to maybe try and understand then a little better,” a reader wrote of Caroline Kee’s illustrations of what it’s like to have the condition at work.
And media can help start difficult but long overdue conversations. A story about living with depression and anxiety can be “something I can show to the people closest to me who don’t understand what I’m going through,” as a reader wrote.
“Because of this article, I was able to have an honest conversation with my mother about my eating disorder, her feelings when I was going through therapy, and my worries about her eating habits,” a reader wrote in response to Arianna Rebolini’s conversation with her mother about their eating disorders.
Mental health is easy to talk about in abstract, clinical terms. You have responded most powerfully when it’s expressed personally. We’re incredibly proud of our writers and producers for the care and thought they’ve put into the work they’ve done, and the work we’ll be publishing this week, and for the courage much of this work takes.
This week, we’ll be publishing more than 100 posts across five languages, as well as 30 videos from the BFMP team (produced in Los Angeles, New York, Sydney, and London), and several posts on mental health produced by BuzzFeed’s Creative team. Our Snapchat Discover channel will focus on mental health takeovers each day, and BuzzFeed Health’s social channels will be entirely devoted to mental health content for the week.
Mental health matters for everyone. And we hope we can, as one reader wrote, “distract me from my thoughts and make me laugh. It took me five months but I was finally able to stop cutting and pulling out my hair. I was recovering and I had just reached a huge milestone but I still had all the thoughts of a depressed person. I hated everything about myself. I was still watching your videos and I realized that many of the things I considered flaws were embraced by the people in your videos and articles. They love the fact that they’re an introvert. They embrace their tallness. They think that small boobs are fucking awesome. Seeing all these people love the things I hated about myself helped me learn to love myself.”