A Calgary teen has launched a campaign asking Amazon to stop selling T-shirts that she says stigmatize people with mental health issues.
Maggie Harder, 14, said she first heard about shirts that joke about suicide and depression through friends, some of whom were personally affected by these issues.
After doing a little research, the nine-grader started a letter-writing campaign to Amazon headquarters in Seattle. It asks the online retailer to stop selling T-shirts featuring messages she described as “incredibly offensive.”
“It all relates back to stigma. And stigma is a huge, huge issue,” Harder told the Toronto Star in a telephone interview Thursday morning.
“Having these shirts displayed shows that having a mental illness is no big deal, or something to laugh about, which is completely false. It is something that should be taken very seriously and treated as though it’s a physical illness.”
An estimated 10 to 20 per cent of Canadian youth are affected by a mental illness or disorder, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association, and suicide is the second-leading cause of death for Canadians between ages 15 and 24.
Harder said she has sent Amazon six or seven letters since late summer but has not received a response.
Harder’s Liberate Minds campaign page also advocates for cutting out words like “crazy” and “insane” from peoples’ vocabularies.
Harder said she hopes raising awareness about mental health will help save lives.
“It may not seem as though it’s a major action, to stop using derogatory language or stop supporting or stop buying products that are derogatory, but really it shows people that their illness is a serious issue and that it’s okay to seek help,” she said.
People don’t need to be personally affected by mental health issues to get involved either, she added. She encouraged people to send their own letters to Amazon to ask for the shirts to be removed.
“If you feel that something needs to be changed, then there’s nothing stopping you,” she said.
Amazon did not immediately respond to the Star’s request for comment.