The short version of the episode is that in addition to some of the usual antics, we watch Vinny descend into the depths and grips of his anxiety disorder. It starts off as just run-of-the-mill homesickness and by the end of the show (I don’t know how many days or weeks had progressed) he is leaving the Jersey Shore beach house to go home and rest and regroup. Of course, over the weekend, many media reports are talking about Vinny bringing a face to a serious mental health issue. It is estimated that 15-25% of our population has such a disorder.
It is refreshing to see a popular media figure be so open about a disorder like this, to humanize it. Hopefully we can chip away at the social stigmas associated with mental illnesses. But a few conversations and phrases during the show really stuck out at me, and indicate how much further we have to go.
In one scene, Vinny is just sitting by himself, thinking. Snooki comes out, presumably to try to cheer him up, and says “Are you sad again?” It’s time that people begin to understand that depression, anxiety and all those related disorders are so much more than just “being sad.” These are true medical conditions and need to be treated as such.
In another scene, the group (minus Vinny) are talking about him and wondering what they can do to help him. It is decided that the group of six will go out to the club to give him some space, and Pauly will stay back to be with Vinny, should he need someone to talk to. As the others are preparing to go out and talking, one of them says something to the effect of that he hopes that Pauly can “knock some sense” into Vinny. To me, it just epitomizes how greatly misunderstood mental health issues still are in this country. People with depression and anxiety can’t just have some sense knocked into them. And to me, indicating that a person just needs some sense knocked into them, implies that this state of depression or anxiety is a choice. Who would choose this state of living? And in yet another segment, they show one of the housemates saying that he wishes Vinny would “just snap out of it.” Sigh. That makes my heart hurt for the millions of people living with anxiety and depression, facing the frustration of spouses and loved ones who ask them to “just snap out of it.”
There are several other examples in the episode, and while his roommates were well intended, it shows how more public education is needed. Depression and anxiety cannot be cured by a walk on the boardwalk or a night out at a club. Luckily, Vinny is smart enough and still clear-thinking enough to know what he needs to get better and leaves the beach house.
Here, Vinny talks about his anxiety disorder: