attention seeking

Dealing with Depression and Attention Seeking on Social Media

By now, everybody knows what depression is and isn’t   or at least they should. Depression is a serious mental health disorder, the symptoms of which include: having a negative self-image, loss of energy, feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, and helplessness, self-harming, or suicidal thoughts. When these symptoms persist for over two weeks, seeking professional help is advised.

While people recently began acknowledging depression as a mental health condition that affects the person’s everyday life, they tend to avoid the fact that anyone can experience it anytime 4 in 6 people we know will experience depression in their lifetime.

For a very long time, people struggling with depression have experienced negative and judgemental attitude from others whether they spoke out about their struggles. Accused of being mentally weak, pathetic, mentally unstable, and seeking attention. And even though people have now become more accepting, due to the available education on the issue, the sufferers of depression are still hesitant to open up and talk about their issues.

Some people find it preferable to talk about their depression with complete strangers via social media ,  Facebook, for example.

I have been a member of several fandom Facebook groups managed by the fans of an American sci-fi television show, Supernatural. During filming in 2007, on the main stars of the show, Jared Padalecki, has experienced a mental breakdown offset, making him realize that depression has nothing to do with a lack of a job, lack of friends, etc. — he was 25, had his own show, many close friends, and even more adoring fans. At the end of 2014, Jared’s close friend lost his battle with depression — he was not the first friend Jared lost to suicide.

These sad events had inspired Jared to launch a t-shirt campaign ‘Always Keep Fighting’ in March 2015. The money raised had gone to various causes promoting mental health awareness, including ‘To Write Love On Her Arms’, ‘The Wounded Warrior Project’, and ‘OneOrlando’.

The fans of the show continue to raise awareness through social media. Facebook groups, such as ‘Supernatural We Stand With You’, are one of the ways fans can reach out towards one another, and support each other — if only emotionally.

Over the past year, I have observed people, in the group mentioned above, posting with the confidence that the other members — most of them strangers — actually care about each other’s wellbeing. There have been many “happy” posts — someone had just gotten engaged, another had a baby, someone is graduating school, and yet another person had beat cancer. Fellow fans “send” love through comments, congratulating them, and wishing them happiness.

Then there were posts from dealing with depression or another mental health issue, those who recently lost a dear one and are struggling with grief, those about to undergo an operation, or simply those who need a cheer-me-up after a nasty break-up with a partner (or a friend). People reply with invitations to talk one-on-one via private messaging, “sending” love and prayers for those who need them and post a meme of the show’s characters to cheer them up. Not one post goes without dozens of well-wishing comments.

But there are always going to be rotten fruits at every bend. A fellow member of the group posted a screen-shot of a friend being bullied, via the messenger app, by a person who saw their “depression talk” post in the group. The name of the bully was presented to everyone in the group, who chose to deal with it the silent way — blocking (after some angry and upset comments on the “revealing” post).

Saying things such as “go kill yourself’ to someone who is openly struggles with suicidal thoughts, only shows how uncivilised and uneducated you are. You are not getting any brownie points for being unfeeling and cruel towards others — who, by the way, have done nothing to deserve your attitude. If you think it’s fun to play around with people’s emotions by saying (texting) things that you know will hurt them, then it is you who is the ‘pathetic’ one, as you could not possibly have many friends that care about you. You see, it is a known fact that a person who enjoys bulling others is unhappy about their own life. What do you really achieve by cyberbullying people? Nothing of value. But what are the consequences of your careless words? The depression gets stronger, self-value decreases further, suicidal thoughts become more intense. Your words can trigger somebody’s breakdown, or become a metaphorical push off a cliff for someone else. No wonder they hesitate to open up.

This is not the way to battling depression. Think before you speak. Nobody wishes to hear such words addressed to them, let alone those who fight the compulsion.

The worst thing you could possibly accuse a person struggling with depression is attention seeking. It degrades the seriousness of the mental health disorder by implying that depression is a ‘fluke of imagination.’ Since we have established that only uneducated person would deliberately harm an emotionally fragile human being, who is fighting for their will to live every day, I find it fit to mention that Excessive Attention Seeking is a thing  as in an actual behavioral problem. Simply put, attention seeking is not a personality trait.

To have a functional, sustainable life, humans require an exchange of attention. For example, if a baby is being ignored by its caregivers, their mental development rate decreases — without any form of social interaction, how is the baby to survive, when it cannot even crawl? Hence, an exchange of attention is normal amongst humans. However, once the receival of attention becomes an addictive thrill, then we see people going to extreme lengths to feed their addiction.

Such behavior is commonly driven by early developmental trauma caused by neglect. Let’s return to the previous example of a neglected baby. A newborn can only do five things   breath, cry, eat, sleep and poop. It certainly cannot hunt for food, or building a fire to keep warm. Babies are dependent on their caregivers for survival. Neglection of these simple needs leads to the child associating attention seeking survival and safety  for example, when a baby cries, it gets food, warmth, attention. The belief system, that receiving attention is required no matter what begins to develop. Drama achieves the goal of receiving attention, and thus the person goes to unhealthy lengths to create as much drama as possible, believing that they need it for their survival.

That said, the bully mentioned previously, might very well be struggling with the very same thing they accused their victim of  attention seeking. I mean really, this person went out of their way to emotionally put someone down, make an empty argument and create a little drama.

My point here is not to simply accept depression and attention seeking for what they are. We need to fight it, together, by supporting each other and care about one another. We might just win the battle if we can ‘nip it in the bud,’ before it consumes us.

By Anastasia Mireyko

Every Friday, we share and talk about depression among unemployed young people! Share your story with us via share@hiretheyouth.org

Depression

One thought on “Dealing with Depression and Attention Seeking on Social Media

  1. Elsie on Reply

    This is such an insightful article and it has indeed evoked a well of thought in my mind. Thank you for sharing. I would like to inquire how this article can be shared. There are people out there who need to read this.

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