Experiencing psychosis is no joke. Just ask the women's fashion brand, Missguided.
Having recently displayed a sign in their flagship store that read: "I'm a psychotic mess but at least my eyebrows look good" they've been called out by just about everyone. Not just by the media, but by members of the public and mental health charities too. Ouch.
As someone who's recently experienced a psychotic episode, I've been glued to my tablet watching things unfold. Seeing how Missguided cope in the face of growing negative publicity.
To put it bluntly, they're having a really hard time of things.
What started out as a single article on the Metro website has quickly ended up with the likes of Cosmopolitan and The Huffington Post covering the story. And that's before you even begin to delve into the hundreds of messages on social media debating whether the sign is inappropriate or simply a joke. Let's be clear - it's not the latter.
With so much criticism being directed at the fashion brand, it'd be easy for me to do the same. But I'll try not to. It's not what's needed.
Four months ago I experienced a psychotic episode after a prolonged period of stress. Over a couple of days I started believing people were watching me at home. I thought my mind was being read, and I saw personal messages in the newspaper and on TV. That was my reality. And that's what people need to hear. Accurate accounts of mental illnesses.
Unfortunately psychosis is very real and some people, like myself, find it difficult to talk about it. Not because it's a mental illness and it's taboo, but because what I believed at the time was so unbelievable I imagine it's hard for others to relate to. And for that reason, psychosis needs greater exposure. So we all become desensitised to hearing about all kinds of mental health problems. And people feel more comfortable opening up about their own experiences.
As the Time to Change campaign points out, the way mental illness is portrayed in the media is incredibly powerful in educating and influencing the public. And this story shouldn't start and end with a superficial discussion about the language that was used. It is a reference for others, like myself, to use to open up, and help stop outdated stereotypes being perpetuated. Being severely unwell didn't make me 'mad' or 'unstable', it makes me one of the one in 100 people who will experience psychosis in their lifetime.
For a store that describes itself as being 'a forward thinking online fashion brand, inspired by real life', their sign was pretty disappointing. But in spite of their mistake, there's good to reflect on. Even fleetingly, it's raised awareness of a mental health problem that's often looked over and forgotten about.
In the short term Missguided's sign will be remembered for being crass, but in the coming weeks maybe it won't be. Maybe we will see a new conversation emerging. One that recognises the fact that mental illnesses are difficult to talk about, and that from time to time we all make mistakes. And we're all learning together.
Psychosis is no punchline. Go tell everyone you know.