Woman Highlights Danger Of Accusing Mental Illness Sufferers Of 'Faking It' With Powerful Selfies

25/01/2016 13:31 | Updated 25 January 2016

There's a common misconception that people mental illness sit in dark rooms, alone, clutching their heads. But this is all wrong.

In reality, mental illness is often invisible. It affects people in different ways and feelings can change from overwhelming to manageable from one day to the next. Basically, just because someone is smiling does not mean they don't have a mental illness.

So when an article in the Sydney Morning Herald offered advice on how employers' could find out whether employees were "faking" mental illness, writer Anna Spargo-Ryan decided to speak up.

She posted two selfies side-by-side to show how her mental illness manifests itself from one day to the next.

"These photos of me were taken three days apart," Spargo-Ryan wrote in a Facebook post. "In the first one, I have a mental illness. And in the second one, I have a mental illness."

These photos of me were taken three days apart. In the first one, I have a mental illness. And in the second one, I...

She continued: "One of the recommendations from this absolute dropkick of a human was to 'issue a warning to those you suspect are faking it'.

"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'. It's an ethereal illness, existing only because we can't be bothered to be well, or because we've talked ourselves into it, or because we didn't try hard enough, or because we are faking it.

"Garbage 'people-management thinkers' who choose to perpetuate the myth that mental illness is probably a fakery do so to broad societal detriment.

"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 wrote.


The post has been shared more than 1,900 times on Facebook, with many commenters chiming in to support her.

"Most folk with mental illness spend much of their time and energy faking being WELL," wrote one.

Another wrote: "You are amazing inside and out. So very proud of you and the courage I know it would've taken to voice your daily struggles and you did it brilliantly. You have given a voice to the many others who aren't quite as strong yet..."

Useful websites and helplines:

  • Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
  • Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
  • Get Connected is a free advice service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email:
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