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What This Millennial Thinks Of The Mental Illness Tumblr Culture

I think it’s great.

It’s great that people like me are finally getting a voice. When was the last time you heard about disability rights as a major platform? Never, right?

You will now.

The United Nations held a big conference back on April 1 for World Autism Day. It featured accomplished autistic speakers like Steve Silberman, author of Neurotribes, and Alex Plank, founder of Hillary Clinton has developed an extensive plan to help us and our families.

And it’s not just autism. I went to NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray’s roundtable discussion to talk about her new mental health initiative, ThriveNYC. There were bloggers with all sorts of mental conditions there. Some of whom were definitely active on Tumblr. Check out Project UROK.

People are paying attention you guys. And it’s because of us. Any bro who’s ashamed of his depression will have this “victim culture” to thank for increased public awareness in the next few years.

But if you say that the (generally pretty privileged) people who write about anxiety and transphobia on Tumblr are babies, you might be right about a few of the details.

For one, grammar policing is detrimental to free speech. You don’t have to call for bans on phrases like “that’s so gay.” That kind of talk fades out on its own. I think public awareness has spread to the point where it’s a minority of people who give a shit if you’re gay anymore.

It’s the same with “that’s retarded.” I say things like that, honestly. Not everything has to be literal. But at some point enough people will call me out on it and I won’t use that slang anymore. Anyway it’s a lot better for the public to joke about something than to be afraid to talk about it at all.

Also, some mental health bloggers, autistic ones in particular, are uncomfortable with dissent. I’ve experienced that personally. I think there’s evolutionary reasons for autism to exist. But I think we should look for a cure. Or at least be open to gene editing research to fix the most disabling symptoms. Other writers I like don’t agree. We should be able to respect people whose points of view are different from ours. We can learn more that way.

Handling something with kid gloves leads us to think that anything about it is beyond reproach. That keeps us from having nuanced discussions. It also makes us look weak. Which is the last thing any disabled person wants. If we don’t want to be treated like infants than we shouldn’t act like them.

You also don’t get to use your mental disorder as an excuse to treat others like shit. That should go without saying. But there’s definitely some adults who use their depression as an excuse for being bad friends. And there’s a lot of autistic men who use not getting laid as an excuse for misogyny. I can sympathize a little. Having a true mental disorder means you need to adjust your expectations for everything. Which isn’t easy to do. Especially if your disorder isn’t obvious to people at first. Still, just as you have the right to be an asshole, the rest of the world has the right to call you out on it.

I don’t spend much time on autistic Tumblr honestly. But when I do I find plenty of insight. And it’s a lot less clinical than those stuffy HuffPost mommy blogs.

Also, when I’m writing these rants I also need to keep in mind that even with my worst problems- depression, repetitive behaviors- I’m still at least on the moderate end of high-functioning. My parents may not have agreed when I was younger. But this is now. I’m not going in and out of the psych ward every couple of months like some people I’ve known. I can live by myself. I can manage my appointments and my bank account without an aide. Although my mom still gives me helpful reminders.

I have a boyfriend. And plenty of friends. Including a few close ones who I think will be friends for life.

I would have a hard time sustaining a “real” job. But fortunately my family’s doing well enough to give me time to explore freelance options.

My point is that I can relate well enough to the rest of the world to call out a few whiners. Other people don’t have that luxury. You can bitch all you want about PC culture and crybabies, but their hearts are in the right place. And their crimes are nothing compared to the crimes against the people they stand up for.

This sad piece talks about a man who was thought to be schizophrenic, institutionalized, and given sedating doses of antipsychotics until he was finally diagnosed with autism at age 55. That kind of thing was common.

The law doesn’t know how to deal with people with mental disorders, as shown by the Kayden Clarke case and the people with intellectual disabilities currently sitting on death row.

Autistic people are begging for euthanasia in Belgium. Last month in Japan, a man stabbed 19 disabled people to death and the papers hardly batted an eye.

Mental health and disability need all the attention they can get. They need to be beaten into the public consciousness until we’re treated like equals. And if that takes some extremism, so be it. I’m glad we’re talking. No matter what we say. Because for so long we never got to tell the world about our experiences at all.


*Image from doodlingsformentalhealth on Tumblr.


What This Millennial Thinks Of The Mental Illness Tumblr Culture

Gwendolyn Kansen

Gwen Kansen is a mental health writer in New York. She likes food, karaoke, and smart-but-campy books & TV. She's hoping to capture a little sliver of life on here that might not be the first thing you'd see.

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APA Reference
Kansen, G. (2016). What This Millennial Thinks Of The Mental Illness Tumblr Culture. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 9, 2020, from


Last updated: 16 Aug 2016
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