The Brief: Memes, an accessible form of communication and self-expression for young people have become a tool for talking about mental illness and health, for better or for worse.

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DEEP DIVE

While laughter may not really be “the best medicine,” it can be an uplifting way to work through mental illness and/or the perils of everyday life.

Depression & Mental Illness Memes

“Depression memes” are memes about mental illness that can be outlets for people to share their experiences or ways for people to make something serious the butt of a joke.

These memes can be beneficial ways for people to build community, reminding each other that they are not alone. Through the dark humor of depression memes, people can express what they are going through and heal together.

However, depression memes are a mixed bag, and also include memes that can be downright depressing, harmful, and offensive. The difference between a joke and a cry for help can be difficult to discern. Some memes romanticize, glamorize, or trivialize mental illness. Others may encourage people to ruminate in their problems without seeking the help that they need. Some dark memes include trigger warnings and resources for substantial mental illness treatment, reminding viewers that depression is not a joke, even if people experiencing it may choose to joke about it.

Ultimately, memes are subjective. A meme could be a funny joke to one person, a therapeutic tool for another, and an insult to someone else. Memes that deal with the serious and sensitive topic of mental illness will have many different interpretations and reactions.

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insecure city population me

A post shared by fake snakes 👸🏻👸🏻 (@meme.queen.satan) on

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i don’t know who made this so please inform me if you do

A post shared by cori ‼️ (@manicpixiememequeen) on

Wholesome Memes

Wholesome memes” are unapologetically positive memes meant to be uplifting. They often reappropriate previously established meme formats to share love, positive messages, healthy coping mechanisms, cute animals, and more. In light of all of the negativity and hate that exists on the internet, wholesome memes are a refreshing alternative, a reminder that there is hope, even in troubling and uncertain times. Wholesome memes that promote positive mental health can be found in Facebook groups, Tumblrs, on Twitter, and through hashtags like #wholesomememes.

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😘😘

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Both brutally honest memes about mental illness and wholesome memes have been lauded by fans as tools for working through hard times. Memes cannot replace therapy and other important treatments for mental illness, but they can provide methods for healing and/or warm and fuzzy boosts. Some “depression memes” like suicide memes, can do more harm than good. Both memes and mental health are complex and nuanced. When they meet, the results can be colorful and complicated. The virality and popularity of memes related to mental health demonstrate how they can be more than just ironic jokes, and how dialogue about mental health is continuing to open up online.

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