Sammy Nickalls
January 26, 2016 11:24 am

The stigma surrounding mental illness — and those who suffer from it — is real and rampant, especially in the workplace. While we’re perfectly comfortable telling our employers we need to leave early because of a doctor’s appointment, doing the same for a therapy appointment. . . not so much. It’s sadly understandable for those who are struggling with their mental health to be sincerely afraid of judgement, because it happens every day. That’s exactly why one Australian writer, Anna Spargo-Ryan, is standing up to the Sydney Morning Herald after they published an irresponsible article entitled “Mental illness: Who’s faking it?

The article, written by “people-management thinker” James Adonis, was intended to “help” employers discern who among their employees is “faking” their mental illness and encouraged employers to “issue a warning to those you suspect are faking it.” And now, in a Facebook post, Spargo-Ryan is highlighting the problematic nature of the article by posting two pictures of herself, side-by-side, in a Facebook post that is quickly going viral.

“These photos of me were taken three days apart,” Anna, who has been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, major depressive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder, wrote in the post. “In the first one, I have a mental illness. And in the second one, I have a mental illness.”

Spargo-Ryan explained that Adonis’s article only served to “perpetuate the myth that mental illness is probably a fakery” and contributed to “broad social 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,” she wrote. “. . . Not that their illness is not legitimate. Not that the time they take away from work to seek treatment is bogus. . . I hope this helps you to spot the fakers.”

Spargo-Ryan, who is writing a novel about mental illness that will be out in June, explained to BuzzFeed that the “sad” photo was taken after reading the article, while the “happy” photo was taken on her way to dinner with friends, “feeling happy and supported but still. . .anxious as hell and wanting to crawl into my body.”

Calling the piece “dangerous,” she explained to BuzzFeed:

Writer James Adonis has since updated the article with an apology:

He has also been responding to criticism on Twitter:

Though it’s good to know that Adonis has learned his lesson, we can only hope that Spargo-Ryan’s message reaches farther and wider than the article has. “Having a mental illness can be very isolating and it can be very comforting to know you’re not alone in your experience,” she told BuzzFeed. “It’s vital to know that you can be unwell but still be so, so valuable to people. . . It’s part of the vast tapestry of your person.”

(Images via Facebook.)

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