It has been fantastic that in recent years celebrities have started to be open and speak about their battles with mental illness. It means that many people feel it easier to speak about their own battles and it reduces stigma and makes conversations easier. I think society is beginning to realise that people can’t look like they have a mental illness, it is an illness of the mind and ANYONE can have a mental illness. Although there is a downside to this because some people are starting to see mental illness as glamourous. The other day someone with bipolar was told, “oh is it because you want to be like Stephen Fry?” and I have heard people say things such as , “Oh bipolar is becoming quite fashionable isn’t it?” Nobody wants a mental illness, I’m sure many people look up to and admire Stephen Fry for his talents and wisdom not for his mental illness. Bipolar is becoming heard of, spoken about, understood-that is not it becoming ‘fashionable’.
It worries me that there are people who strive for a mental illness diagnosis, who want the label, it shows a huge misunderstanding. Having a mental illness is horrible and no matter how much you want one (?!) it doesn’t work like that. You can’t choose to be mentally unwell. I want to be fashionable and my mental illness stops me. My thoughts tear me apart sometimes, I hate these illnesses that I have. I hate that life can be going amazingly and I can be achieving highly but my illness is still horrific. I hate the constant fear that I’m going to become too unwell and lose all of the things around me. I want to be fashionable, I want to wear the latest clothes in Topshop and for people to see me as more than okay, I don’t want looks of sorrow and sympathy or to live under layers and layers of clothes in order to keep my underweight body warm.
Do you think depression is fashionable? There is nothing beautiful about the scars on my arms that will stay with me through life, or the side effects of my antidepressants. There was nothing fashionable about all those months I spent home alone or the state of my bedroom after months of unmedicated clinical depression. I have never been to a nightclub, or on a girls holiday. I’ve missed out on the ‘cool kid’ stuff.
Do you think personality disorders are fashionable? There is nothing fashionable about losing all relationships and opportunities, about living in a constant state of conflict and confusion. I know people who have ended up alone, living in homeless accommodation.
Do you think being on a psychiatric ward is glamourous? There is nothing vogue about being watched whilst you pee and your family coming to visit you on a ward full of very unwell people. It isn’t some awesome sleepover, it is lonely, boring and the lack of privacy will get to you eventually.
It is great that we are talking about mental health more and more. It is great that so many people are trying to raise awareness and understanding. Mental illness being in the spotlight does not make it fashionable, something to strive for or something that people should want. People are unwell because they are unwell, not because they want to be fashionable. The aim is to stamp out stigma and stereotypes, not to change them.