While it's true that we're living in an era where mental health is more widely spoken about than ever before, sadly there is still a tonne of stigma surrounding some of aspects of it. For example, while we're more comfortable discussing things like anxiety and depression, the language and conversation around illnesses such as schizophrenia, or being hospitalised for your mental health, hasn't quite caught up yet.
This is exactly why mental health campaigners and fans of the popular Instagram account, @everyoutfitonSATC, which documents and comments on fashionable ensembles worn by the characters of Sex and the City, are far from happy with their latest post. The account shared several screengrabs of an episode wherein Carrie Bradshaw (played by Sarah Jessica Parker) visits an old flame, Jeremy, played by David Duchovny, while he's staying as an in-patient at a mental health hospital.
Captioning the stills, Every Outfit On SATC, wrote: "We love to see Carrie bring her signature brand of romanticism all the way to the mental institution. This lace-trimmed, ‘20s-inspired dress is an ideal choice for a casual afternoon picnic—but is it too sexy for psych ward? You can’t blame her for wanting to look hot for her new beau, after all, the insane are notoriously good in bed. We are slightly triggered by the continuity issues with that lariat necklace, though. (S6/EP10)."
Naturally, the post has been branded as misjudged by some of the account's followers. One wrote, "I’m a huge fan of this account but would urge you to reconsider the way you write about people with mental disabilities. People whose mental illnesses require them to live in institutions live incredibly hard lives. They are also isolated from their families and friends with little control over their own lives. Simply put, they should not be used as punchlines."
Another said of the divisive upload, "This caption is bad on so many levels - as if mental health issues weren't stigmatized enough." Other pointed out that the episode itself, which first aired in 2003, paints a truly problematic picture of mental health facilities. "Residential psychiatric centers are very small in number, increasingly rare and only allow acceptance for chronically ill people who cannot function independently in the community, and often lack family/ community supports to do so. It’s not a place you can go to for a 'retreat' and have a leisurely picnic."
In response to some of the criticism, Chelsea Fairless, who co-created the account took to the comments section to say the account wasn't about being politically correct (despite becoming famed for its serious of 'Woke Charlotte' memes): "Chelsea here, I’ve struggled with mental illness since childhood so I get that it’s really fucking shitty. I own four editions of The Bell Jar, for God’s sake! For me, humor is an essential part of my coping strategy. Lauren and I talk to this audience like we would our close friends — we’re not about virtue signaling. We are also firm believers of the First Amendment and understand that means allowing people to say things that make us uncomfortable and vice versa. This account has never been PC and probably never will be!"
Cosmopolitan UK reached out to mental health campaigners for their thoughts on social media posts such as this. In response, Jo Loughran, Director of Time to Change, the mental health anti-stigma campaign run by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, said, "In a time where there is arguably more awareness of mental health problems than ever before, it’s extremely disappointing to see this stigmatising caption."
She continued, "It’s never ok to make a joke out of mental illness. Negative attitudes towards mental health problems can lead to negative behaviours and discrimination. Though the characters this caption refers to are fictional, the experience of a mental health crisis and spending time in hospital is real to many of us."
Loughran also added, "Sadly, we know that many people experiencing mental health problems already feel isolated and ashamed, which can make it hard for them to speak out and seek support. ‘Jokes’ like this just make it that much harder."
If writing a more sensitive caption is one easy way of helping to make somebody dealing with a mental illness's life easier, then why wouldn't you do it? Sounds straightforward to us...
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