When ban.do released a line of necklaces with words like “anxiety” and “bipolar,” the lifestyle brand wanted to start a conversation and decrease the stigma surrounding mental illness, according to a statement from founder and chief creative officer Jen Gotch included in the online store’s description of the necklaces.
“I have struggled with mental health issues for most of my life and I know how challenging it can be both personally and professionally,” Gotch wrote in the necklaces’ description. “It’s so important for us to open up a dialogue about how we are feeling and get to a place where we are comfortable asking for and receiving help. One thing we can all do is work to remove the stigmas associated with mental illness. These necklaces are a step in doing that and I hope they can also serve as a conversation starter for people to be more open about what’s going on in their minds. Wear it in good (mental) health.”
Proceeds from the necklaces go to Bring Change to Mind, a non-profit that fights the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness.
But not everyone is convinced that the necklaces are a good way to start conversation or reduce stigma. Some people worry the necklaces portray mental illness as a cute fashion statement, while others think wearing the necklaces is a good way to show they’re not ashamed of mental illness.
@shopbando mental illness isn’t something for you to flaunt around like it’s some sort of pretty status symbol :/ this is ridiculous. I could see many people using this inappropriately or as a way to label others.
— stay hydrated (@boxed_bees) May 28, 2018
Or it’s a cute way to show I’m not ashamed of my mental illness same coin, other side
— (@facelessfuckers) May 30, 2018
While some think wearing the necklaces could reduce the stigma, others think they simply romanticize mental illness.
Awareness maybe? Like when bracelets for cancer emerged to spread awareness of the different types of illness? Considering these things taboo/offensive pushes the stigma surrounding mental illness to continue if you ask me :/
— kathryn (@kannchy) May 28, 2018
u can totally tell this is not for awareness tho?? it’s for “fashion” and using mental illness for a fashion statement is offensive if u ask me :/
— bad ghrl bri bri (@chinchlady701) May 28, 2018
Though many twitter users think reducing the stigma is important, they don’t think these necklaces are a good way to achieve this.
Can we stop romanticizing mental illnesses
— Christine Crossen (@Chriscross_13) May 29, 2018
But others think visibility is important, and wearing a necklace CAN help break the stigma.
The website being roasted for this is founded by a bipolar woman, 1% of all net proceeds to charity & 100% net proceeds of these necklaces going to charity.
Everyone is way too fast to label mental illness awareness as “romanticising” it, even if that means erasing MI people
— Thal (@thalestral) May 29, 2018
With many different opinions about the necklaces, one twitter user suggested that ban.do isn’t successfully achieving its goal if the necklaces are causing so much controversy.
K I read more of this thread. but I still don’t like it at all bc majority of people who see this necklace will not know that it’s to be worn for awareness. Like obviously if people are getting so fired up about this they’re not doing it right.
— emerald mara (@emeraldthegirl) May 28, 2018
ban.do responded to the thread, attempting to clarify the intentions behind the necklaces but also encouraging discussion.
so far we have seen a conversation open up about mental illness – both positive and negative- and we really appreciate your thoughts and opinions on the subject. if you want to learn more about our initiative head to https://t.co/6CvMnv0BEI
— ban.do (@shopbando) May 28, 2018
Though the necklaces are controversial, they’ve also been quite popular, according to Refinery29.