I’m not Happy with the “Unhappy Meals” at Burger King

On the surface, it seems good for Burger King to partner with Mental Health America and sell “Real Meals” (as a poke at McDonald’s Happy Meal) in order to raise awareness that it is okay not to feel happy all the time. During Mental Health Awareness Month, the meals will be available at a handful of locations, however, the meals, with the names Yaaas Meal, DGAF (Don’t Give a F…), Salty Meal, Pissed Meal, and Blue Meal, seemed aimed at the people having a bad day rather than at people who contend with a mental illness.

As someone with a severe mental illness, I’m frustrated that once again, the people who are at the forefront of our discussion around mental health are those having a bad day or feeling a little sad or angry.

The same thing happened with the self-care movement (according to Slate magazine self-care was originally a medical practice). When it first appeared, the term referred to treatments that many of us practice as adjuncts to our medications that help keep us stable, but now it has turned into a whole industry (9–11 billion dollars worth) for people who are well and now consider a soak in the bath or binge-watching Netflix as self-care. We seem to focus on raising awareness about people who, though tired, frustrated, overworked, or stressed, are essentially healthy rather than focusing on the vast numbers of seriously mentally ill people who are homeless and incarcerated.

I don’t think that all the news is bad, though. While I rarely mention my schizophrenia diagnosis, I do find it easier and more socially acceptable to talk about the times I have experienced depression and to discuss my generalized anxiety disorder. Anxiety and depression are two illnesses that are more commonly talked about because celebrities have publicly discussed having these disorders. And depictions of anxiety and depression in movies and magazines are more common, and average people are more willing to disclose these diagnoses. I wish the same were true for severe mental illness, but sadly, it is not.

When Burger King or any other corporation starts selling a product that has to do with hallucinations, paranoia, delusions or suicidal ideation, I will know that it is safe to talk about all of my symptoms and not just one or two of them. Stigma is fierce and stereotypes still rule the day for those with severe mental illness. Meanwhile, those who are having an average bad day get all the attention.