Vogue Portugal defends controversial mental health front cover

The front cover of Vogue Portugal's 'Madness' issue. Credit: Instagram/Vogue Portugal

Vogue Portugal has defended its controversial magazine front cover in which it depicts mental health treatment saying it was “designed to address different dimensions of human behaviour".

The front cover – one of four front pages created for the July/August “Madness” issue – shows a woman sat in a bathtub in a hospital with two nurses beside her – one who is pouring water over her.

The image was severely criticised, with many saying the fashion magazine's cover depicted a "dystopian" and "outdated" idea of treatment and also accused the publication of glamorising mental health.

The Portuguese model Sara Sampaio commented on Vogue Portugal’s Instagram page: “These kinds of pictures should not be representing the conversation about mental health! I think it’s very bad taste!”

However Vogue Portugal said its intention was to “shine a light” on the important issue.

“Our intention is to open up the topic of mental health, and bring to the discussion the institutions, the science and the people that are involved with mental health today,” the statement on its Instagram page said.

“The cover story explores the historical context of mental health and is designed to reflect real life and authentic stories, inspired by deep research.”

The statement added the issue features interviews from psychiatrists, sociologists, physiologists and other experts in the field.

Vogue Portugal said mental health is one of the topics explored in the issue, but is “not linked to the theme of madness.”

But many were appalled at the response from the magazine and the lack of apology.

Mental health mentor Tamsyn Hawken wrote on Twitter: “You don’t for even a sentence acknowledge what people are feeling or demonstrate you’ve given any thought to the feedback you’ve had.

"If you can’t take responsibility for that, you’re not responsible enough to cover a topic as sensitive as mental health.”

Vogue Portugal sought to explain why it had dedicated an issue to mental health on its official Instagram account, stating: “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.”