Over the past several years, ever since I began going to therapy, I have started to become open and honest about my mental health struggles. It’s something that I find increasingly important to talk about, especially in our culture that likes to pretend that everything is okay and the only ones who need legitimate help is your loca third cousin that everyone whispers about at family gatherings. That’s why it has become a passion of mine to try to combat mental illness stigma by being open about my own experiences.
Still, despite my best efforts, my anxiety and the subsequent stress is something that rarely comes up in casual conversation. I mean, my loved ones know that I suffer and actively seek help, but that’s usually as far as it goes. That’s why I was extremely surprised to see the new mental illness necklaces hitting the internet, featuring words like “anxiety” and “depression” in oh-so-pretty lettering — and even more surprised to find that they have stirred up a bit of controversy, according to Elle UK.
View this post on Instagram
since may is mental health awareness month, we are so happy to let you know that the @jengotch x @theiconery necklaces will be back next week, with all net proceeds still going to @bringchangetomind. we are completely overwhelmed by all your support and the stories you have been sharing and tagging us in all month long, and wanted to remind you that 1% of all sales on bando.com this month are also going to @bringchangetomind. if you're looking for one of these necklaces, make sure to sign up on the product page so you get an email when they are restocked! 📸 : @jengotch #jengotchfeelbetter
To be honest, despite my being open about my own anxiety, I never once considered that it would be something that I would wear proudly around my neck. Although, I’m not ashamed of my mental illness and do try to talk about it whenever I can because I honestly believe that the stigma surrounding mental health is terrible. Having an actual necklace that declares to the entire world that I have a problem is, well, very scary. I realized that for me, it’s one thing to be open about my anxiety online or in privacy with people that truly care about me, but out in the open? S-C-A-R-Y.
However, scariness aside, the reason that some people on the internet are unhappy with these necklaces is because they believe that the necklaces are problematic due to the fact that they’re making mental illness seem romantic. As one Twitter user put it: “Romanticizing mental illness is very uncool…even worse that you are doing it for profit.”
@shopbando Romanticizing mental illness is very uncool…even worse that you are doing it for profit.
— Ja'mie King (@CrueIla) May 28, 2018
The comment went viral and eventually sparked a controversy in the comments, with others chiming in to say that it’s inappropriate to wear mental illness as a “cute necklace” and that the company is only being fashionable. However, some also defended the necklaces by saying that it’s okay for some of us suffering with mental illness to want to break the stigma by wearing one of these a cute necklaces. One user pointed out: “Okay but what about the people like me who wish they even sold ones that say BPD and bipolar… Why am I wrong for wanting a cute way to be open and reduce stigma around a big part of my life?”
Okay but what about the people like me who wish they even sold ones that say BPD and bipolar… why am I wrong for wanting a cute way to be open and reduce stigma around a big part of my life?
— 🌿𝒸𝒽𝒾𝓁𝒹𝓁𝑒𝓈𝓈 𝓂𝒾𝓁𝒻🌿 (@facelessfuckers) May 28, 2018
Although I understand why some people would see these necklaces as a problem, I was relieved to find out that all of the proceeds from these necklaces, which also include the words “bipolar” and “7.8,” will be donated to Bring Change to Mind, “a non-profit organization dedicated to encouraging dialogue about mental health and to raising awareness, understanding, and empathy,” according to Ban.do (the necklace creator). But more than that, seeing these necklaces around the necks of others made me think… What exactly am I so afraid of?
As someone who prides herself on being open, I was ashamed to realize that my openness and honesty only went so far. I was okay with letting people I trusted into my inner circle and even okay being public on the internet, where I feel that I am ultimately protected from face-to-face interactions from anyone who didn’t appreciate my attempt to get personal about my mental health. But when it came to wearing my mental health proudly around my neck? Apparently not. I felt like a hypocrite, but I realized that maybe this necklace is exactly what some of us need in order to fully, truly accept our anxiety or depression or bipolar disorder as a part of who we are.
For me, these necklaces aren’t so much about being fashionable as they are about attempting, in whatever small way we can, to raise awareness about mental health and to end the stigma surrounding it. It’s okay to talk about these things because that is the only way that others will also learn that it’s okay for them to talk about it too. And ultimately, it’s okay for all of us to seek help in whatever way we need to. If a pretty little necklace helps me along the way too, well, then that’s great.