Stop Making Mental Illness Your Clickbait Cash Cow

We often find ourselves reading articles on THAT sidebar of shame, laughing at the misfortune of others, and giggling at tragic outfits at award shows (bad feminist alert and we KNOW it’s wrong)…but what happens when the articles feature mentally ill celebrities as a punch line? Chapter W co-founder Katherine Chambers offers her perspective…

Before I start, I must issue a disclaimer. I am an addict. My addiction? The sidebar of shame.

A brief morning browse, a sneaky session at my desk, a quick glance while my partner is making dinner, and a swift scroll before bed. Lord forgive me, for I have sinned.

There’s no denying that my feminist sensibilities are appalled (daily) by the trash I digest on online tabloids. However, this week in particular, I found myself truly repulsed. This repulsion went far beyond the usual low-level disgust I feel toward the content I digest on these platforms, and sparked a flame of anger that I just can’t put out.

I won’t name the website in question, because I don’t want to generate traffic toward the articles I’m about to mention, but it was the third time in the last month they had pissed me off.

The first time I felt nauseated during my morning toke of tabloid trash was when I observed images of Billie Lourd, photographed without her consent, outside the hospital when her mother had just taken ill. The second was viewing images of Billie Lourd, photographed without her consent, outside the hospital where her mother had just died. The third, this week, was when this particular publication stooped as low as to publish images of someone clearly experiencing a severe mental breakdown.

The person in question, this time, was a well-known actress. Once celebrated by the likes of Glamour as the ‘next big thing’, praised as ‘captivating’ by The Hollywood Reporter and named as Entertainment Weekly’s ‘It Girl 2013’, this talented woman was reduced to nothing but gawping gossip fodder for the online masses; shut in the social media stocks, she was unwillingly readied for the rotten fruit of the preying public.

How is this ok?

From publicising a blue-eyed boy’s weary-eyed walk off the wagon and a Nickelodeon child star’s descent into drugged Twitter ramblings, to now the emotional unrest of another of America’s sweethearts, when did mental illness become the columnist’s cash cow? When did private distress become public property? When did we start parading the sick beside the shameless?

When did I become part of the problem?

Much like a smoker ignores the yellowing of their teeth and the mounting acridity of their breath and tries covering their carcinogenic tracks with Crest strips and gum, writing this is my way of attempting to erase the cold hard fact that I’ve played a part in encouraging this pseudo journalism.

I hope that by expressing my disgust on a platform I have at my dictatorial disposal, I can somehow repent my repulsion at my own callous click.

We cannot forget we live in a country where suicide is the single biggest cause of death among men under the age of 45, where almost half of those living with mental health problems feel they cannot talk about it and where a quarter of those living with mental health problems feel there is a stigma surrounding the topic of mental health. (Stats supplied by

Here I make my public vow: that while I may sneak a glance at the sidebar of shame, that shame is reserved exclusively for myself. There is no shame in being unwell, there is no shame in mental illness, there is no shame in failing in your recovery when you succeeded to try.

The sidebar of shame is named so for a reason.

Believe me, I know.

Katherine Chambers 


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