Clickbait and Shaming Mental Health Sufferers

It’s been a few days since that deplorable woman Amanda Lauren published a poorly written, ill informed, ill advised trash piece for the online trash publication XOJane explaining why her friend “Leah” who suffers from mental illness (a schizoaffective disorder) was better off dead. Her death appears to have been the result of suicide, she was found drowned in a bathtub.

The internet, the mental health community, mental health activists, disability rights activists and most of digital media have all put in their two cents in condemning her piece, which indirectly gives this Amanda Lauren person more attention she deserves. But what she wrote was so vile, so cruel and the way she talked about a mental health sufferer so callously, it really hit a nerve for a lot of people, regardless if they struggle from mental illness or not. She deserves all the abuse and criticism she’s getting and more. But in a way she did everyone a favor. She ripped off that polite mask that some able bodied and sound mind person wears when dealing with someone who suffers from mental illness and got people talking. She said out loud what many people feel about people with mental illnesses, especially when those illnesses manifest themselves in personality disorders and they became difficult to deal with. The message is this: you’ll never get well, you’ll never act normal, you’ll never think normal,  you’ll never be normal, you don’t even know what normal means, you are too ‘far gone’ (whatever that means), you are attention seeking, just go away. And Amanda Lauren took it one step further, just die and we’ll mourn the person you could have been before you got mentally ill. She spoke the last taboo of dealing with people with mental illness, she made her friend seem like a burden to all that around her and when her friend died, she did herself and everyone a favor. She’s no longer a burden to herself, her family and society.

XOJane has already taken down that vile piece of writing (vile in style and in content) and since offered an apology. But why did it even publish it in the first place? How this piece of drivel even got published in the first place is indicative of the lack of proper boundaries since we entered into a digital age. People, hiding behind fake identities they create for themselves, no longer know what is appropriate to publish and want isn’t. This combined with the competitive digital publishing format, everyone scrambling for clickbait content to promote their site, you get articles like ‘My Former Friend’s Death was a Blessing –Some people are so sick, they are beyond help.’

(I struggled with whether I should link back to Amanda Lauren’s vile article, but it’s important that people see just how callous her tone is, and she was no friend of Leah’s.)

XOJane passes itself off as a serious publication for the modern woman but it’s really just a clickbait-y online publication which commissions mostly women writers who are not experts in any field pertaining to issues about women. The mostly write about their own experiences and how it magically applies to all other women. Occasionally they have articles that discuss domestic abuse and highlighting domestic abuse awareness, but mostly, they feature writers like Amanda Lauren, a pretend expert on mental health (or any other flavor of the week), a know-it-all with a thin resume where you don’t really know what the writer does for a living. Amanda Lauren is such a person. On her own website she calls herself a writer, actress and model, or what we call in L.A. a MAW (model, actress, whatever). Amanda Lauren would be a perfect cast member for the reality show Vanderpump Rules. She is bleached blond, her face appears to be over injected with fillers,  spends too much time and money on personal grooming as opposed to having intellectual pursuits (just a little wouldn’t hurt – crack open a book once in awhile), and she wants to be an actress without trying. In the meantime she maintains or raises her ‘profile’ with modeling gigs, writing articles like the one she wrote for XOJane or until she lands a rich guy marry or hits it out of the park with her own reality show.

This ‘friend’ Amanda Lauren describes is hardly what one would call a friend, she’s at best an acquaintance from childhood or someone she used to know. Their connection is spurious, in L.A. we’d call that ‘hanging out’, and not every person we hang out with we call a friend. Besides that, if Leah were really a friend, she wouldn’t be spoken of in this way. Her death would be mourned by her real friends and family. The first sin that Leah committed, is Leah attempting to “hook up” with a guy Amanda Lauren had a crush on, so after that and a few other transgressions, she was cut off. If she empathized with Leah’s mental illness and how it affects her, she can easily see that her strange or abnormal behavior is very much to do with her mental illness. After she cut her friend off, and by cut off, I mean cut off the Millennial way, blocked from all social media, or in effect, iced out. Leah won’t be tagged in Instagram photos with their mutual friends, she’d be blocked from seeing Lauren’s Twitter and Facebook accounts and vice versa.

Years pass and another mutual friend of theirs told Lauren to take a look at Leah’s Facebook page and this is where it gets ugly; Lauren describes Leah’s Facebook account as an anorexic fourteen year old sex worker and her posts were disturbing, she says this mockingly, without any real concern for Leah’s wellbeing. If she were a real friend, she’d reach out to Leah directly to get off social media and stay off until she’s well again and she’d tell Leah privately her feelings. And of course her final salvo, after humiliating her friend by exposing her at her weakest moments: after battling mental illness, the humiliations and indignities that comes along with that, looking like an anorexic underage sex worker on her Facebook profile, the fact that she was found drowned in a bathtub is a welcome relief for Leah. She no longer has to suffer with the indignities of her illness, which is becoming an anorexic “cam girl”. And she had the nerve to say the healthy Leah would not want to see the crazy Leah like ‘that’. Does she not realize that the healthy Leah and the unwell Leah are the same person? People’s illnesses and disabilities are part of who they are, regardless if they are showing symptoms or not. There are no two Leahs, the one one that is sane and the one that is “crazy”; there was only one Leah.

The saddest part of this is many people suffering from mental illness have come out publicly and said they knew this is how their family and friends viewed them:

We are the victims of violence and trauma because we encounter people every day who see us as less than human – people like you [Amanda Lauren], who believe that being crazy is an invitation for tragic mistreatment and even death.

Six years ago, they might have said that I was beyond help. They sure liked to emphasize how severe my disorders were, how dysfunctional I was. Like your “friend” Leah, they might have said that death spared me from a life of institutions and burdening my loved ones. -Sam Dylan Finch

When it was mentioned to Amanda Lauren that she didn’t put a trigger warning in her article as her writing might affect someone who is recovering, she said the title of her article spoke for itself and they could choose to not read it.

Mental illness is very misunderstood. Unless one is a psychiatrist or mental illness health provider, many people do not know how to cope with people with mental illness. Families get on the best the can with what little resources they have. If someone’s mental illness is wreaking havoc and chaos in their family, let’s remember that they are suffering too – even though it looks like they are the cause of everyone else’s suffering.

The word “crazy” has also been bandied about to suit whatever situation one finds themselves in but judicious use of that word is in order.

Donald Trump is crazy.

Screaming One Direction fans are usually hormonal crazy teenage girls (and maybe some boys).

We were all crazy in love once with someone.

We all acted crazy and irrational at times when things didn’t go our way.

We’ve called people we didn’t like crazy regardless if they deserved that label or not.

We’ve referred to our own mothers as crazy when she disagreed with us.

Specifically to women, labeling a woman crazy usually applies to a woman over a certain age, so it’s also tinged with sexism and ageism.

Crazy, depending on the situation can be funny, hysterical even – Nora Ephron’s stories and essays come to mind.

Crazy can also mean describing someone who is mentally ill and is in the middle of a mental breakdown.

The only way to end the stigma to mental illness is everyone doing their part, no matter how small, not contributing to the labeling of people would be a good place to start. Not ostracizing or icing people out because of their mental illness would go a long way. Learning some tools to handle people with mental illness can help everyone. An offering of unconditional friendship to someone who is mentally ill can go a long way.

 

5 thoughts on “Clickbait and Shaming Mental Health Sufferers

  1. I read the Amanda Lauren essay. It didn’t make me as angry as it made everybody else. Perhaps because I considered the possibility that it was fiction, that “Leah” is just Amanda Lauren’s projection of herself into her “friend.” It also reminded me a little bit of a classic poem by A.E. Houseman, which is very clearly Houseman projected himself onto an imaginary suicide.

    http://www3.amherst.edu/~rjyanco94/literature/alfrededwardhousman/poems/ashropshirelad/shotsoquicksocleananending.html

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    1. To be honest, I don’t really think censorship of a personal essay is going to do much to help the mentally ill. The real problem is with the lack of access to mental health services that prevents so many people from getting professional help. I probably wouldn’t have written Lauren’s article. But I don’t really think it was out of line to publish it. It was offered as a personal, autobiographical essay, not as an opinion from a professional psychologist. Had it been passed off as an advice column from a professional, or even from an amateur, that would have been a different story.

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      1. I don’t think XOJane should have published it. Lauren can keep it on her blog and do what she likes.
        The stigma around mental illness is sometimes what keeps people from getting treatment. It’s a multi-prong approach, we need mental health services available to everyone but so is the stigma around getting help and admitting you have an issue.
        A lot mental health activists I follow in other blogs, FB and Twitter all said things along the line of “I knew that’s what friends & family thought about me when they say my social media profiles” and this messages was pretty consistent and that surprised me, I don’t know why.

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        1. re: ” Lauren can keep it on her blog and do what she likes.”

          Why. Because some mentally ill person is going to say “oh this is real writing with a corporate brand and not someone’s opinion?”

          It seems to me that if we’re giving a website like XOJane that kind of authority, it’s more a problem than the mean spirited thoughts of one essayist. People shouldn’t be looking to the Internet (whether is “real” corporate approved VC funded writing or just writing on a blog) for treatment.

          If they are, and if people on social media are banding together to drive off writers who threaten the brand, that seems to me to be dodging the issue. People shouldn’t be getting caught up in “mental health communities” on the Internet. From what I’ve seen they honestly resemble cults more often than not.

          Maybe Amanda Lauren accidentally hacked the system by stirring up the hornets nest she did.

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