A woman has posed two selfies that highlight the danger of accusing mental health sufferers of ‘faking it.’
Anna Spargo-Ryan’s images were posed in response to an article in The Sydney Morning Herald that provided advice on how employers could spot whether or not an employee was ‘faking’ their mental illness to get time off work.
Incensed by the suggestion that anyone would want to ‘fake’ a mental illness, or that mental illness was visible in the same way that a physical illness is, Spargo-Ryan took to Facebook to post the two selfies next to one another, showing how her mental illness manifests itself visibly from day to day.
The first photograph shows Melbourne-based Spargo-Ryan crying – clearly distressed - and the second shows her apparently relaxed and happy.
Alongside the images, the writer posted:
“These photos of me were taken three days apart. In the first one, I have a mental illness. And in the second one, I have a mental illness.”
“Part of what makes mental illness so hard to identify in at-risk people is the constant reinforcement that we're 'imagining it' or that we're 'just sad' or that we 'have to want to get better,'” she continues.
“Good people have mental illnesses. We need them to feel supported and empowered in their places, whether that's work or home or school or somewhere else. Not that someone is waiting to 'catch them out'. Not that their illness is not legitimate. Not that the time they take away from work to seek treatment is bogus.
“Both of these photos are mental illness. I hope this helps you to spot the fakers,” she writes.
Spargo-Ryan’s post touched so many people that it has now been shared almost 1000 times on Facebook, with hundreds of comments below the image giving messages of support – and thanks.
One user posted saying:
“Most folk with mental illness spend much of their time and energy faking being WELL. That article disgusts me. Thank you Anna, you are too wise & fabulous for words Xx.”
“I've spent the last day and a half in bed. Right now I'm feeling okay, and tomorrow I'll probably get stuff done. The symptoms come and go, the illness itself does not.”
The Sydney Morning Herald journalist, James Adonis, has since apologised for his article.
Taking to Twitter to say sorry for his assertion, Adonis wrote:
@Lyndsay_Kirkham I've been trying to get the article removed or to have an apology added. I'm deeply sorry. This has been a big lesson.— James Adonis (@jamesadonis) January 25, 2016
The journalist also issued a formal apology, saying:
“Since publishing this article, an enormous amount of feedback on social media has made me realise it was poorly written and insensitive. This has been unfair on those with a mental illness and their loved ones. This was never my intention. My intention was to achieve the opposite. At this I clearly failed. I'm genuinely sorry.”
If you or someone you loves suffers from mental illness, get in touch with the mental health charity, Mind, for support.