New Instagram Web Series Tackles LGBTQ Mental Health Issues

Americans tend to only talk about mental health when a celebrity commits suicide. The deaths of celebrities like Robin Williams, Lee Thompson Young, and, most recently, Chester Bennington of Linkin Park deeply impacted fans all around the world.

However, after a week of vigils and memorials, everyone resumes their daily lives, until the next celebrity passes away. The Anxiety and Depression Association reports that over 16 million Americans suffer depression every year, but the media rarely broaches the subject.

One community significantly affected are queer youth and young adults.

Dallas Rico, a queer black and Latino writer from Brooklyn is attempting to address this with his innovative new web series on Instagram, titled The Incredible Osiris Jackson, an homage to The Famous Jett Jackson.

As American attention spans shorten over the years, a lot of media content is becoming more bite-sized. The shorter the YouTube video, the better. Many new outlets focus on shareable headlines and facts that can be easily retweeted.

Last year, Instagram produced its own original web series, called Shield Five, in hopes of starting a storytelling trend on their platform. The series tells a murder mystery via photos and quick 15-second clips.

Now, YouTube is not the only option for TV show style series. Some artists are starting to use Instagram as a way to tell stories and sell their brand or personality, the way comedians and motivational speakers have been for years.

With over 700 million worldwide users, Dallas saw Instagram as a viable platform to promote mental health awareness in a creative way. He sought to create a project that is both engaging and relatable and that speaks to an issue in the POC and queer communities.

In Dallas’s series, followers will watch the story unfold through the fictional Instagram profile of Osiris Jackson, played by Dallas himself. After a devastating breakup, a friend encourages him to post a weekly video, listing five things he’s grateful for.

All is not well, however. As followers watch the videos, they will notice his depression slowly creep in. They will follow the highs and lows that he will experience as he fights to stay positive.

Over the past decade the media has portrayed coming out the closet as a wonderful, liberating experience. Film and TV scenes show someone revealing their sexuality and everyone is perfectly okay with it.

In fact, the friends knew all along and were just waiting for that moment. It’s as if a gay man’s struggles end the moment they reveal their true rainbow colors. Not so.

The consequences of coming out can be quite traumatic. Depending on one’s family environment, a queer young man or woman could get disowned, ostracized, or kicked out of their homes.

Some opt to never come out to their families, never sharing that part of their lives with them. It can get lonely in the closet.

Others have to eschew religious beliefs that they’ll go to hell before they can feel comfortable in their own skin. All of these experiences require an almost superhuman mental fortitude.

This is especially true for queer people of color, whose families are traditionally much more homophobic. NPR published poll results in which black individuals were much more likely to call homosexuality morally wrong than their white counterparts.

What’s more, gay marriage is legal across the nation, but you’ve got to find a partner first. We all now dating in this tech-savvy world is hard for both straight and gay individuals. Add to that this obsession with hyper masculinity and it becomes extremely challenging for gay men.

Good luck if you don’t have a sixpack and/or can pass as a straight man. All of these unrealistic expectations weigh on Osiris, the way it does for many gay men. Will he ever be happy? That’s something he’ll have to decide over the course of the series.

Everyone wants to be accepted. The lack of that acceptance can be devastating. First one must accept one’s self, which may be the most difficult part. That is Osiris’s struggle.

Dallas hopes to finds an audience that relates with Osiris and sympathizes with individuals who struggle with depression. Ultimately, he aspires to turn the series into a TV show as a platform to explore this topic.

Follow Osiris’s journey on Instagram @invincible.o

About the author

Dallas Rico is a black and Latino screenwriter and novelist based in Brooklyn. His life’s work drives him to push for more diversity in literature and on the TV screen.

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