The topic of mental health has cropped up in our Instagram feeds, our TV shows, and our clothing brands all to raise awareness of the fact that mental illness is common, it can affect anyone, and every experience is different.
But now an L.A.-based lifestyle brand that created a mental illness jewelry line for the same reasons has sparked an online debate about whether or not its products are sending the right message.
Ban.do released an exclusive line of necklaces that feature the scripted words "anxiety," "bipolar," and "depression." On its website, founder and chief creative officer Jen Gotch noted that she's had her own personal struggles with mental health, which is why she created the jewelry line to help end the stigma.
"It's so important for us to open up a dialogue about how we are feeling and get to a place where we are comfortable asking for and receiving help," she wrote. "These necklaces are a step in doing that and I hope they can also serve as a conversation starter for people to be more open about what's going on in their minds."
But despite her transparency, some social media users claim this method of raising awareness is "offensive" and "romanticizes" mental illness.
u can totally tell this is not for awareness tho?? it's for "fashion" and using mental illness for a fashion statement is offensive if u ask me :/
— bad ghrl bri bri Ⓥ (@chinchlady701) May 28, 2018
In response to one criticism, ban.do clarified on Twitter that its founder Gotch has bipolar disorder and that 100 per cent of the proceeds will go to the Bring Change To Mind, a non-profit organization committed to ending the mental health stigma.
But while the brand had good intentions, some people are still confused by the statement necklaces and have continued to note how problematic they are.
While ban.do has not commented further on the debate, it did note on Twitter that they "appreciate" the positive and negative conversations people are now having about mental illness.
The Canadian Mental Health Association reports that one in five people in Canada will experience a mental health problem in any given year, and by age 40, 50 per cent of the population will have had a mental illness.
Canadian brands have done their part to raise awareness of mental health issues across the country. Bell Canada's annual Bell Let's Talk Day is a prime example, but smaller brands such as Maritime-based clothing company Wear Your Label, which sells items with positive affirmations such as "It's OK not to be OK" and "Self-care isn't selfish," have also done their part to help end the stigma.
"News flash: MENTAL ILLNESS IS NOT A TREND. MENTAL ILLNESS IS NOT FUN, ITS NOT COOL, ITS NOT FASHION. DON'T TRY TO MAKE IT SOMETHING ITS NOT."
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