Is "The Pink Elephant" Connected to Mental Illness?

July 16, 2012 Natalie Jeanne Champagne

This is pretty straight forward-I think."The Pink Elephant" can represent our mental illness. Nobody can see it, but we know that it's there.

Can You Define The Meaning of the "Pink Elephant?"

I hope you are still reading this--I agree-- it's a weird topic. Elephants? But if you break it down, well, it makes sense. Hang in there please!

First, let's define the ridiculous metaphor "The Pink Elephant" Like the term suggests, apparently this creature is in a room and his body has been appropriately dyed pink to fit the description. Personally, I picture this elephant green. I like that color.

I will pull out my glorious thesaurus for this one because Wikipedia might confuse us further. It often does.

Hmm. I fear I was incorrect. I flipped to the appropriate page, page, "962.02", and expected to find something. A short description at the very least!

A few lines on the meaning behind the metaphor. But I find this and under the black and bold heading "INSANITY/MANIA":

"Insanity...Mania or Dementia...One sandwich short of a picnic..Snakes in the boots...Pink Elephants..."

I am not kidding. One sandwich short of a picnic? Snakes in the boots? Well, this is a concrete lesson in literary stigma.

I fear this is the very last time I use this book (until I do.) I am sort of a word-nerd.

Clearly, words cannot describe this---although it was enlightening looking.

How is Mental Illness Related to "The Pink Elephant?"

It's a feeling and it feels a lot like alienation and loneliness do--two emotions that are connected to mental illness. When I picture it, I imagine myself in a room full of people, or maybe sitting around the dinner table with a select few.

We might be talking about sports, politics or dessert. I might be wondering if my state of mind, perhaps depression, is visible to them. My mental illness feels larger than life!

It feels like the pink elephant in any given room--or green.

When we are struggling, when our illness throws our lives a bit off kilter, it's natural to feel exposed. To feel as if the way we feel is exhibited in our behavior. In our relationships. In our life. And it might be--but not all of the time.

Throw Away The Metaphors...What Are We Really Talking About?

People talk about having 'skeletons in the closet' but I like to believe I can shut the damn closet door whenever I like. Living with a mental illness is different, it is invisible, but can feel large.


Let's break this down and take the ridiculous "Pink Elephant" out of the equation. Being diagnosed and living with a mental illness can make us feel...

>Lonely. Does anyone understand?

>Afraid. Will I stay or become well? What if I don't?

>Like a burden. Aren't they sick of taking care of me?

>Ashamed. This is my fault!

And many more feelings, thoughts and emotions. It isn't pretty and the road to recovery is never nicely paved, but we can work to feel less alone.

Kick the stupid elephant and all the negativity it represents out of the room and remember that people all struggle. That is life and sometimes, well, sometimes life throws us curve balls.

APA Reference
Jeanne, N. (2012, July 16). Is "The Pink Elephant" Connected to Mental Illness?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 20 from

Author: Natalie Jeanne Champagne

Alisha Caudill
September, 4 2012 at 4:04 pm

Me personally have seen a pink elephant, yes it may seem funny, but know lie, i tink it has something to do with schizopheria.

July, 21 2012 at 7:12 am

I don't think you know what that pink elephant really is a metaphor for. It means that the majority of people actually KNOW about bad stuff being done but pretend not to see it...on PURPOSE. But it's not invisible to honest people who see it.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natalie Jeanne Champagne
July, 22 2012 at 8:25 am

Thank you for the comment. I believe we are both correct. The best thing about a metaphor is being able to step outside of the "normal" definition and apply it creatively.

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