I’ve never been one to closely watch the relaity TV show, Teen Mom 2, but the season finale part 1 was on yesterday and I had nothing better to do so I decided to tune in. Big mistake. It really set me off because on two separate occasions on the show mental illness was stigmatized.
First, one of the fathers on the show by the name of Corey insinuated that Leah (his ex-wife and mother of their twin girls) was an unfit mother because of the medication she was on. He claimed that he did not want her looking after his girls while she was on the medication for anxiety because of how it might effect her.
What. The. Hell.
This is pure stigmatization! Not only is Corey insinuating that Leah’s mental illness is making her an unfit mother, but he is also implying that she is somehow even less of a parent for reaching out and getting the help that she needs.
As a mental health advocate and someone who has experience with anti-anxiety medication, I am absolutely appalled. There is NOTHING wrong with someone taking medication for their anxiety. Furthermore, the fact that Leah reached out for help should be a testament to how good a mother she is. Only the strongest of people know when they need to ask for help. How can we expect someone to be the best parent that they can be if they are experiencing mental illness? I for one find Corey’s insinuation disturbing.
But Corey wasn’t the only one who drew my attention. Leah also caught my attention with her statement “I start feeling like a damn druggy” in reference to the medication that she was on. From my perspective, Leah indirectly stigmatized the use of pharmaceuticals for the treatment of mental illness by making the comparison between the use of such medication and the use of street drugs.
Even if Leah did not intend to offend anyone with this statement, I still think that this is a form of oppression and stigmatization. What she fails to mention is that the drowsiness and other symptoms that she is experiencing are totally normal when someone begins taking medication for anxiety. It takes 3-4 weeks for the medication to become normalized in your system and for the medication to actually start making a difference in terms of regulating anxiety and/or other symptoms.
The fact that Leah was only on the medication for a week (as she claims on the show) is proof that she did not give the medication enough time to actually start working, nor did her body have enough time to adjust to the change. As a result, I believe that Leah Messer’s portrayal of anti-anxiety medication is unfair and (perhaps unintentionally) stigmatizing individuals who use the medication themselves.
Even lighthearted comments like this make a world of difference when it comes to ending the stigma surrounding mental illness, especially when the comments come from a public figure such as Corey Simms or Leah Messer. These types of comments can have a detrimental impact on the public perception of mental illness and the medication that is associated with it.
I for one and disappointed in all of the aforementioned parties.