When stationery entrepreneur Jen Gotch and the heavyweights at jewellery brand Iconery sat together at a table, they decided to work towards ending the stigma around mental illness.
Their intention in creating dainty ‘anxiety‘ and ‘depression‘ necklaces was, no doubt, admirable; Gotch is a popular businesswoman whose Instagram following of almost 200,000 was built upon candid transparency about her own clinical depression. The 14K yellow gold vermeil necklaces – which retail for $48 – sold out within hours of hitting social media. Gotch has promised that all profits from the necklaces will be donated to Bring Change To Mind, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to quashing misconceptions about mental illness.
It’s a lovely sentiment, and in creating some pretty jewellery Gotch and Iconery have really started an important conversation.
But as someone with anxiety, I am torn about conflating mental illness with fashion.
Anxiety is having a moment in popular culture right now, and has been for a couple of years.
Some examples: Buzzfeed publishes listicles of celebrities who have anxiety year on year. The shoes on the London Fashion Week catwalk three weeks ago had ‘ANXIETY’ emblazoned on the front in glittering jewels. The cover of this month’s Harper’s Bazaar US is the most followed woman on Instagram, Selena Gomez, speaking about her anxiety and the obstacles she has overcome.
This isn’t a critique of Selena, of course – we need more women to be open and honest about the ugliness of mental illness. But because anxiety is now seen as the cornerstone of what makes a successful and busy woman, it is in vogue. Because it’s viewed as the more feminine, softer, romantic sister of other mental illnesses, anxiety sells everything from shoes to magazines. Because it’s on trend, women and men leap at the chance to have the word brandished around their necks in lovely, shiny gold.
Call me nuts, but I can’t imagine necklaces with the words ‘glandular fever’, ‘asthma’, ‘schizophrenia’ or ‘diabetes’ having the same commercial appeal.
And yet, for those who have been squeezed in its suffocating grip, it is anything but cool. It’s an illness that has changed me, that has taken me to the scariest and darkest places of my life. It’s something that has kept me home on countless occasions because I’m too fearful to leave my apartment. It’s something that has damaged friendships. It’s something I have spent, at last count, $1408.80 trying to free myself from.
It’s not something that I see as pretty, enviable, or fashionable. It can be paralysing. It’s something I despise.
It’s also not something that defines me.
– Michelle Andrews
Read more: Fashionable Anxiety