The cover in question features a photograph of a woman crouched down in a bathtub with two nurses either side of her.
The image, shot by photographer Branislav Simoncik, has been accused of romanticising mental illness and has been likened to Sylvia Plath’s novel The Bell Jar and the 1999 film Girl Interrupted.
Jo Loughran, director of Time to Change, the mental health anti-stigma campaign run by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, told The Independent that the cover was “disappointing” and “outdated”.
“Today, in a time where there is arguably more awareness of mental health problems than ever before, it’s disappointing to see this outdated depiction of a psychiatric hospital – especially on the cover of such a high-profile magazine,” she said.
“Ultimately, misrepresentations such as this can make life even harder for people experiencing a mental health problem to speak out and seek support. Furthermore, we know that compounding negative attitudes towards mental health problems can lead to negative behaviours and discrimination.
“While it’s great to see that Vogue Portugal is trying to raise awareness of mental health in this issue, doing so behind this cover is not acceptable.”
Loughran added that this is not the first time they’ve seen mental illness glorified in this manner.
“We know that people’s attitudes towards mental health are improving, and while this cover is incredibly disappointing, it’s encouraging to know that the public will no longer stand to see mental illness used as a gimmick,” she said of the backlash to the cover on social media.
“When people feel empowered to call out stigma it can send a powerful message to the world – that stigmatising mental health problems is never acceptable.”
THE MADNESS ISSUE.
It’s about love.
It’s about life.
It’s about us.
It’s about you.
It’s about now.
It’s about health.
It’s about mental health. #themadnessissue It’s about time.
Pre-order the july/august issue at https://t.co/7vQX0f1u8F pic.twitter.com/3PX5nUWOPb— Vogue Portugal (@VoguePortugal)July 2, 2020
Social media users have been equally critical about the cover.
“Mental health isn’t a fashion trend,” one person commented on Instagram. “This is disgustingly insensitive and inappropriate. Shame on you.”
Another person accused the publication of modelling the image on a mental asylum.
“So Vogue Portugal’s July/August 2020 issue is titled ‘The Madness Issue’ and uses the aesthetic of a psychiatric hospital as it’s cover. Who is approving this s***???” they tweeted.
Writer and mental health campaigner Poorna Bell tweeted: “On behalf of anyone who has ever been in a psychiatric hospital or had a loved one who has been in one, honestly @VoguePortugal, f*** you.”
— Poorna Bell (@poornabell)July 3, 2020
The magazine has created a total of four covers for its “Madness Issue”.
One cover features a close-up shot of a woman holding a model of a human heart while another shows a woman in a black ballgown with a billowing skirt that has several legs popping out from underneath.
A third cover shows a model at a photoshoot, slumped on a chair in front of a picture of the sea while a woman wearing a mask crouches behind her.
This is horrific for people who are actually struggling with mental health problems and sectioning. I’m sure none of the content in these issues is helpful to vulnerable people. Why not do a cancer issue next?— MJ Lira (@liradelira0)July 2, 2020
In a caption promoting the issue, Vogue Portugal writes: “It’s about love. It’s about life. It’s about us. It’s about you. It’s about now. It’s about health. It’s about mental health.”
the new @VoguePortugal is extremely disrespectful, the glamorisation of asylums / traumatic methods of treatment just pushes the stigma further. I can’t believe this was approved pic.twitter.com/55oUu93tzt— elliott morgan (@elliott_morgan)July 2, 2020
The Independent has contacted Vogue Portugal for comment.
If you have been affected by any issues mentioned in this article, you can contact The Samaritans for free on 116 123 or any of the following mental health organisations: