By Alejandro Ambriz
Mental health is one of the most prevalent topics in recent years and pop culture has played a crucial role in the public discourse.
Through depictions such as Thor’s Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in “Avengers: Endgame” and the suicide of Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington, people are becoming aware of some signs that people with mental health disorders exhibit.
The Mental Health In Pop Culture Media and Cosplay panel at Comic Con hosted an important conversation on Oct. 13 about mental health and people who are afflicted.
There were accredited and certified mental health professionals and pop-culture contributors who talked about a range of issues including depression, anxiety and how pop culture illustrates mental health.
The panel was refreshing, as it brought a positive and friendly discussion on mental health and the issues that prevent people from seeking help or treatment.
They shared personal stories about some of their own inner turmoil to show that there are always ways to manage issues and find inspiration within pop culture and the nerd community.
Even though it’s becoming more common to talk about mental health, people are reluctant to express their issues for fear of being called crazy or having to deal with the stigma of being diagnosed.
One of the panelists, Cristobal Hernandez, attested to this by talking about a scene in “Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse,” where Peter Parker advises Miles Morales to take a leap of faith.
“That really resonated with me because that’s a lot of what I have had to do in all of my life, especially getting properly diagnosed for mental health… It was really scary having this label on me,” Hernandez said.
At one point, he, like others, have felt that they should avoid being properly diagnosed or talk about their psychiatric disorders because they exhibit symptoms that are typically considered ‘bad.’
Feelings such as sadness, irritability and even emotions people don’t understand can be better understood by seeking treatment whenever ready.
“I took the leap of faith, I got diagnosed. It was a good decision, it really helped me sort of get myself together and I’m still not at 100 precent… I can tell I’m in a better place,” Hernandez said. Talking about those feelings is the first step.
When people have anxiety or depression they don’t always feel anxious or depressed. Audrey, a cosplayer and one of the panelists, was officially diagnosed with anxiety in high school and went to therapy for some time after.
“It comes and goes to you in waves and it affects everyone differently,” Audrey said.
Some people could be with a group of friends or attend a panel at Comic Con and feel depressed the whole time.
“That one I feel is a lot harder to explain because people will be like, ‘You’re not crying, you’re here, you’re out and about’ and it’s like, ‘Yes I’m magically cured, thank you,’” Audrey said.
It’s not that simple. For Audrey, she found her escape through the cosplay world.
“For my first year at Comic Con, I dressed up as Emma Stone in ‘Easy A.’ I didn’t really resonate with her, just that she was going through high school and dealing with bullies for no real good reason,” she said.
Many people don’t understand a person can be in a constant state of anxiety or feel sad despite participating in conversation.
They should seek to educate themselves about mental health disorders and conditions. Being unable to understand it contributes to the negative attention mental health receives.
In an interview with Attitude Magazine, Psychiatry professor at Yael University Larry Davidson said, “We receive no education about mental illness in school, and the media continues to portray extreme stereotypes.”
He also added that only one in three people with a diagnosable mental illness will seek treatment.
Mental health shouldn’t be treated as less serious of an issue just because the symptoms aren’t always expressed physically.
Instead of saying ‘you’re depressed because of A, B, and C’ or ‘you’re doing it to yourself just stop thinking bad things’, seek to understand and listen. There are always ways to express yourself and find peace, whether it be cosplay or therapy.