‘I really don’t like myself.’ I laughed through my tears, sitting on the floor of my living room. The bulk of my chocolate-brown Labrador Archie situated directly on top of my stomach and the bemused look of mild fear in his hazel eyes encapsulating the entire mood of the evening. I had just finished my mock exams and proceeded to recall the failures of every single one to my mother. My insecurities and lamentations spilled out into the air, mingling with the faint scent of our John Lewis fig candle. My current mental health was a swollen slab of meat to be dissected. Every single night.

In our lives mental health is a difficult concept to confine to a definition; its bold font adorns our headlines and its messy entrails leave a foul odour in our houses. I never really talk about my mental health, partly because I feel it serves no purpose, but also because I think it is a difficult topic to broach within the comforting triviality of our everyday existence. We are praised for our raw and naked distress – provided it is curtailed by the appropriate stoicism. Self-love Instagram accounts are flooded with smudged eye selfies and cellulite and yet I have never managed to take these imperfections, admirable in others, and accept them with the same alacrity in my own life.

It is much easier for us to emulate the glamourised example of repressing our emotions demonstrated by every teenage show heroine. The struggle to approach your mental health with gentle compassion and yet also calm logic is one we all grapple with, and, despite the amelioration of the subject in the media, according to mentalhealth.org 10% of children and young people aged 5-16 have a clinically diagnosable mental health problem, and 70% have not received an intervention at a sufficiently early age. A couple of years ago a difficult and precarious situation in my friendship group at school spiralled rapidly out of control, as did my own mental health. Behind my renowned stoicism and impassivity – I faltered. Prominent figures in society discussing their own mental health with such blasé positivity was an example I couldn’t follow. I think that delving into the intricacies of my own life will achieve little, but my own failure to resolve internal turmoil is illustrative of a pattern so many of us follow.

A technique employed by many (including myself) in times of poor mental health is to window-dress our lives in a shiny gloss to conceal the cracks beneath. When my own school participated in Anti-Bullying Week last term, we were all asked to don a yellow accessory as a show of support for anyone struggling with poor mental health. The triviality of a fashion choice and the severity of mental health problems mixed was simply bizarre. I asked my form tutor whether she thought that endeavours such as this week were in fact a way of us all painting over the foreboding darkness of mental health with a glaringly bright yellow hue. After a thoughtful pause, she carefully admitted that whilst there is a danger of this, talking about mental health is part of the process of de-stigmatizing the concept.

She then went on to concede that it is still incredibly difficult to dissect mental health conceptually in assemblies, without it turning into a lecture devoid of sensitivity towards an individual’s experiences. Pointing out that assemblies are presented to a captive silent audience, she highlighted that they must be done thoughtfully as the format doesn’t facilitate open discussion. I asked her whether she thought that social media was a large contributor to poor mental health, and she acknowledged that young people’s unrealistic portrayal of their lives on the internet is problematic, and feeds into a glorified ideal that does little to assuage our own feelings of inadequacy.

Despite constant praise about myself from my own family and friends, I cannot help constantly comparing myself to other people, their achievements, their successes and their lives. Self-love is trendy but self-laceration is trendier, as illustrated by the antics of Hannah Baker on 13 Reasons Why. I have never personally watched the disturbing spectacle unfold, but the hungry fascination with which my friends devoured it evoked a morbid curiosity in even my own heart. Unfortunately, my friends are not alone in their fixation on fictional characters. Many of us turn to the increasingly exploitative television industry as a form of cheap escapism, and sadly gratuitous violence as a product of mental health is an incredibly sexy and lucrative idea for those producing shows.

I talked to the Deputy Head of Pastoral at my school, and when asked about the dangers that a show such as 13 Reasons Why posed, she quickly agreed that its normalisation of extreme behaviour is detrimental to so many young people’s perception of mental health. However, we both agreed that raising awareness of issues such as suicide is crucial to their prevention, if done in a sensitive way. Whilst the show centres on the tragic termination of a young girl’s life, she, after careful deliberation, remarked that in her own personal experience, girls were a lot more forthcoming about mental health than boys, who often had to be chatted to as a result of a comment from a worried friend. I asked her whether she felt that this was due to societal moulding or innate features of the male mind, and she asserted that the roles carved out for the different genders were incredibly damaging with regards to mental health, particularly because of our desire for sensitive and thoughtful men who also possess the requisite male attributes of strength and bravado.

Whilst the seeping of toxic masculinity into the mental health narrative is undeniably damaging, when I asked an experienced psychiatrist about her opinions on the glamorisation of mental health and its presentation in schools, she pointed out that, whilst there is a lot of training and provision for mental health in schools, the NHS is incredibly over-stretched, and the lack of funding for mental health means that you must be seriously ill before receiving help.

In the new year, it is easy to feel smothered by the blinding positivity of those who seek to sugar coat mental health problems in the media or enticed by those who seek to portray depression as trendy in television. An analogy once related to me about mental health is that our existence is akin to that of a pebble floating in a stream. We will have periods when we float higher, and our mental health improves, and periods when we sink but we are constantly moving gently forward in the soft flow of time.