Michelle Wolf on Mental Health

“It’s Okay to Admit That Life Is Terrifying”: Michelle Wolf on Mental Health in the Wake of Celebrity Suicides

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Comedian Michelle Wolf had a brilliant segment on The Break with Michelle Wolf about how much our culture of pretending everything is fine and dandy contributes to silence about our own mental health and the stigma around mental illness.

In discussing the recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, Wolf makes some hugely valid points about the societal pressure to present your life as being perfect. Wolf notes:

“How can we expect to have an honest conversation about anything if we’re always supposed to seem flawless? Looking at social media, you’d think our lives are just sun-kissed beaches and calorie-free avocado toast, when most of the time it’s piles of dirty laundry on top of piles of clean laundry.”

“All of our selfies are lies,” she points out, but as we watch other people’s lives go past on all we often see are their ski getaways, beaming partners and children, and picture-perfect poses. We forget how often those poses took twenty different photography attempts, and how frequently smiles can mask intense pain underneath. As a culture, we’re used to presenting our best facade for public consumption, while revealing how dark or depressed we may be feeling can be fraught territory.

“We’re all just walking around, answering the question ‘how are you?’ with ‘good,'” she says. Whereas you might actually be filled with existential dread: “No, I’m not good. Haven’t you seen the nightmare fish? Also, space goes on for infinity!'”

Her main message here: “Let’s make it okay to admit that you’re not doing great, and really listen to other people when they admit they’re not either. ‘How’s it going today?’ ‘Well, I’ve been thinking about 9/11 non-stop and both of my legs hurt.’ ‘Oh! I just cried in my car for twenty minutes thinking about how dogs can’t tell you when they’re sick. Also, space goes on for infinity.’

“But if we can admit that we’re not always happy and our lives may not be as perfect as they appear, maybe it will pave the way for us to talk more openly about things like depression,” Wolf says, suggesting a small step forward everyone can take: the next time you’re posting a selfie, “use the hashtag #ifeelalittlebad. Also, in the spirit of being honest, post the number of times you tried taking the photo.”

You know what? I’m going to try it.

(via TV Line, image: Netflix/screengrab)

If you feel you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It is a free, 24-hour hotline, at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). It is a free, 24/7 service that can provide suicidal persons or those around them with support, information and local resources.

The Trevor Project is a national 24-hour, toll free confidential suicide hotline for LGBTQ youth. Call the TrevorLifeline. We are always here: 1-866-488-7386.

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Kaila Hale-Stern
Kaila Hale-Stern (she/her) is a content director, editor, and writer who has been working in digital media for more than fifteen years. She started at TMS in 2016. She loves to write about TV—especially science fiction, fantasy, and mystery shows—and movies, with an emphasis on Marvel. Talk to her about fandom, queer representation, and Captain Kirk. Kaila has written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.