With Rebekah Vardy accusing Coleen Rooney of “weaponising” her fan base during their barbed legal battle, I can’t help but feel that Vardy is the one trying to do the weaponising, by raising concerns about her poor “mental wellbeing” in her first interview since the trial.
At the risk of sounding callous, I need to make it clear I am not saying Vardy is crying wolf about her mental health issues. Many people experience poor mental health — and in many ways — so I have no doubt that the widely reported, no-holds-barred libel case that Vardy lost against Rooney last week would inevitably take a toll on anyone’s psychological welfare.
However, I’m not sure that going to The Sun with claims of one’s suspected PTSD and “emotional exhaustion”, all while accusing your legal sparring partner of being “sinister”, is an all too positive or realistic way of dealing with that.
Mental health awareness and discussion around topics such as depression have become increasingly eminent in the social media era, and rightfully so, but often people in the public eye misuse these movements to avoid accountability and divert others from their shortcomings.
Celebrities and influencers often turn to the ‘Be Kind’ campaign when the media criticises or exposes them — all in the public interest, might I add — for their wrongdoings.
One example that comes to mind is the Instagram blogger who, after being met with condemnation for visiting Dubai whilst the UK was at the height of its Covid-19 lockdown, pleaded for people to “be kind” if they didn’t have anything nice to say.
So, where is Vardy’s mention of worries for Rooney’s mental wellbeing, after details of her private life were repeatedly leaked to tabloids?
The High Court ruled that Rooney’s accusations of Vardy being the one to share “false stories” of her to The Sun were “substantially true” and the 36-year-old’s lawyer has even confirmed she does not want any compensation and just wants “to get on with her life”.
While Rooney herself has not openly engaged in any media appearances since the court ruling, Vardy has already had her first TV interview about their three-year-long battle, which aired last night on TalkTV. As a journalist, I wholeheartedly understand a person’s right to put their own side of the story across, but, again, with Vardy saying that she feels “physically sick” and has “nightmares” whenever she talks about the trial, I personally don’t find that level of voluntary, continued media attention advisable.
That still doesn’t justify the level of abuse Vardy said she has received, because, like with everything nowadays, many social media users take the whole situation too far. Linking her with terrorist groups, the disappearance of Madeleine McCann and sending her vile online messages are completely undeserved, uncalled for and excessively ridiculous. They only help to deter from the bigger picture.
Behind the spectacle that is Wagatha Christie is a caution everyone on social media should be wary of: famous faces are people too. They have feelings, personal lives and vulnerabilities like the rest of us. Similarly, no one is above the law or moral high ground. And although owning up to mistakes or unkind actions can be traumatic and anxiety inducing — especially in such a public setting — it’s better to rip off the Band-Aid and do just that, instead of accusing others of causing one’s poor mental health.