'The madness issue': 'Vogue Portugal' under fire for 'insensitive' magazine cover

The fashion magazine has been accused of stigmatising mental health with its latest cover

The cover of 'Vogue Portugal''s 'The Madness Issue' was shot by photographer Branislav Simoncik. Instagram / Vogue Portugal
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In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, glossy fashion titles around the world have been forced to get creative with their covers.

With shoots called off and the need for a tone mindful of the global crisis, magazines such as British Vogue have come up with innovative solutions, including photographing three front-line workers for its July issue.

One title that appears to have misjudged the current climate, however, is Vogue's Portuguese arm.

Vogue Portugal released four covers for its July issue on Friday, though soon came under fire for one in particular.

The image in question shows a model in what is made out to be a psychiatric institution, as she is bathed by two uniformed nurses.

The shot accompanies the coverline, "The Madness Issue", with the edition dedicated to mental health.

"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 Instagram caption revealing the cover added. "#themadnessissue. It’s about time."

Commenters were quick to point out the magazine's "insensitive" handling of mental health, accusing Vogue Portugal of "glamuorising mental illness".

“These kinds of pictures should not be representing the conversation about mental health! I think it’s very bad taste!" wrote supermodel Sara Sampaio on the Instagram post.

"This is inappropriate and damaging. Revoke the cover and issue an apology. Glamourising asylums that led to countless deaths in an age where many people still don’t have access to care is beyond careless and demonstrates how little you are concerned with your responsibilities as an influential media outlet," one commenter wrote.

"As someone who has had a loved one repeatedly hospitalised on a mental health ward, I find the idea that you would aestheticise that on a Vogue cover for 'the madness issue' truly incomprehensible," added another. "This kind of strange, archaic image of mental illness is deeply stigmatising."

The magazine is yet to issue a statement on the furore surrounding the cover image.

However, editor-in-chief Sofia Lucas said on Instagram on Saturday that the image was designed 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".

"One of the covers portrays a hospital scene where the model is being taken care of by her real-life mother and grandmother, shot by photographer Branislav Simoncik," Lucas wrote.

"The cover story explores the historical context of mental health and is designed to reflect real-life and authentic stories, inspired by deep research of hundreds of reportage photographs from some of the most relevant and famous documentarists who have captured mental health hospitals.

"Mental health forms just one of the topics explored within the issue and is not linked to the theme of madness but instead covered as an aspect of human emotions and behaviour."

Slovakian photographer Simoncik, who shot the image, shared a statement saying the image was "not meant to encourage the stigmatisation of patients".

The photographer apologised, however, added that he considered the negative attention "a basic misunderstanding".

"If this photograph and the discussion around it have contributed to an increased interest in mental health problems, and if this helps at least one person, it was worth it," he said.