In the summer of 2009, message boards buzzed with chatter about a new A&E television program, Hoarders, which showed the home of someone who had accumulated such clutter that the living space was no longer safe to occupy. They had such unclean areas, the crews would uncover rotting food, dead animals, bugs, mould and other hazards.
The subjects would work with therapists and professional organisers to rebuild their lives after a cleanup team performed a complete overhaul of each room. The professionals would attempt to determine why the hoarding happened and in the beginning, treated the hoarders for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). In some cases, that was the root cause, but as the show progressed and the problem became more well-known, it was found to be more complex, with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Clinical Depression also identified as potential triggers for hoarding behaviours. Such a prevalent problem, the show has been going strong for 14 seasons.
In a similar can’t-look-away fashion, over 700k viewers on social media are actively watching reels on the Instagram channel of Brogan Chambers, a Canadian citizen who conducts and films herself cleaning out unsafe homes free of charge to draw attention to the link between these behaviours and mental health. She has to wear a hazmat suit to enter the homes and is sometimes in situations so extreme, she has to replace bedding and household items that are too far damaged to use.
It’s wonderful she gets such attention because the donations and partnerships with cleaning brands enable her to offer this service to those who would otherwise get no assistance. What’s horrific to see are the comments on every post, saying horrible things about the homeowners. People say that laziness shouldn’t be rewarded with free maid service or that the homeowners should be arrested for contaminating their neighbourhoods, etc.
These trolls don’t listen to the videos, where Brogan often shares the struggles of the people she helps. Or if they do, they simply don’t believe the stories because they don’t understand mental health issues. Yet by posting hateful comments, they could be causing harm to someone else’s mental health. Quite a vicious cycle.
While we’re on the topic of social media and mental health, if you follow us on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube or X, you’ve likely seen or been contacted by an impersonator, pretending to be one of us, or a fictional member of “management” asking to book a meet-and-greet, donate to TWFF or chat on platforms we don’t use, such as Telegram or WhatsApp (where they often fake a romance and then ask for financial support).
Though we post scam alerts regularly, and will never DM you privately for any reason, we still hear from fans and supporters that have been fooled—some have even lost large sums of money. But what’s just as devastating as the financial loss is the damage to their mental health. It’s painful to trust someone you think you ‘know’ and have all of that trust obliterated when that ‘person’ goes dark and it’s discovered that they were never real.
Scamming common followers of public figures is unfortunately just one form of social media harassment. There are also cyberbullies that issue threats, reveal private information and attempt to damage the credibility of those they target. Social media platforms really need to step up and address these issues as they are so widespread. In the meantime we must all be vigilant about reporting and blocking offenders.
On this World Mental Health Day, we want to bring common mental health conditions to light and offer ways to get help if you or someone you love struggles with these issues.
ADHD, Depression and OCD
One of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders, which begins in childhood, and can continue through to adulthood, is ADHD. Symptoms include excessive talking, inability to focus on one activity for a length of time, impulse control, losing items and trouble resisting temptation. Causes may include environmental factors, brain injuries, low birth weight, premature delivery or alcohol and tobacco use during pregnancy.
Depression is not just sadness, as it’s sometimes portrayed. It’s when a sad mood lasts for such a length of time that it interferes with everyday functions. Symptoms include sleep issues, aches and pains that don’t improve with treatment, lack of motivation for activities that were once fun, changes in appetite, inability to concentrate, anxiety and thoughts of self-harm. Causes may include heredity, trauma, chronic medical issues, addiction to alcohol or drugs and major life changes.
Obsessive and compulsive behaviours that cause anxiety if not controlled is what is labelled OCD. This may include habits of repetition (counting or repeating words, steps or actions), collecting items and/or organising them in a specific way that cannot be deviated from or alternately, cleaning excessively. Causes may include heredity, or chemical or functional abnormalities in the brain.
With each of these issues, none are intentional by those who suffer from them, therefore the stigmas surrounding them are unwarranted. No one chooses these behaviours. There is no shame in suffering from a mental health issue. The more we discuss these parts of our lives, the less taboo they’ll become in the mainstream, which will lead to more people getting the help they need.
Some mental health issues can be treated effectively with therapy and medication. There have been numerous recent studies that show promise.*
Here are just a few:
Ketamine was determined to provide a “sustained improvement in depressive symptoms without major side effects” according to a clinical trial conducted by Massachusetts General Brigham.
Pharmacogenetics may help doctors prescribe custom treatments for anxiety and depression based on those with hereditary markers for the condition. Evidence from a recent study was presented at the American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting earlier this summer.
Gut-brain Axis was believed to play a role in mental health, based on research conducted by Nature Communications. The study referenced discovered a link between what bacteria was or wasn’t found in the gut and the presence or absence of depressive symptoms. This finding could lead to more holistic (pro- and prebiotic) and food-based remedies for relieving symptoms of depression.
Where to Get Support
Checkpoint.org has resources available for depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions, listed by country.
The I Am Able Foundation is currently forming empowerment groups to increase support and networking opportunities for those with ADHD and other invisible learning disabilities.
Recovery International offers multiple mental health resources worldwide.
The International Association for Suicide Prevention connects those in need to over 50 organisations worldwide, dedicated to preventing suicide.
Fundamentally, life would be easier for all of us if we each practised the Golden Rule and treated one another how we’d like to be treated, online, in-person and everywhere in between.
After all, the easiest treatment, free of medications or therapies, is the simplest of all to administer … Kindness.
“Silver Linings, 2021” © Julian Lennon. To acquire this work, visit Artsy.
*Information provided is not meant to be taken as medical advice. If you suffer from a mental health condition, please consult a medical professional to diagnose and treat your specific concerns.