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Here’s a new twist on a week full of family disfunction: a woman named Michelle Chapman created fake Facebook accounts under her family members names, sent herself abusive messages from that account, and then reported the unsuspecting family members to the police, all as part of a revenge plot. Chapman has been sentenced to 20 months in prison, which makes her the first person to be arrested and to do time for trolling herself. As much as that sounds like a great set up for a joke, the story is more complicated than that and deals with the reality of mental illness and it’s reach far beyond the mentally ill person.

Chapman spent a year sending herself threatening, sexual messages from accounts that she created under the names of her stepmother and father, Louise Steen and Roy Jackson, as well as other relatives. After Chapman reported the abuse, Steen was arrested and Jackson was issued a formal warning.

Apparently this all began when Chapman and Roy attempted to reconcile after a 21 year estrangement. This didn’t go great, so Chapman decided on a “revenge plot” that first involved sending abusive messages to her father under Steen’s name with the intention of ending their marriage. Then, the whole plan grew to include multiple family members who abused Chapman (well, Chapman abused herself under their names).

Prosecutor Philip Lee said that “she said that she wanted revenge on her father for matters in the past. She just wanted to make their life hell,” and it apparently worked, since Roy and Steen’s marriage fell apart soon after.

This is a hilarious revenge story and we all laughed and laughed. Except that that’s a pretty incomplete take: it’s also a pretty difficult example of untreated mental illness’ consequences.

Chapman’s husband, Glyn Chapman, said it best:

“She is the victim, she has mental health issues and it was a cry for help. She has not had the help she needs. This is what you do when you’re in desperate, desperate need of help – you scream out.”

This aspect isn’t being reported in some media outlets–looking at you, Buzzfeed. In fact, Buzzfeed doesn’t mention the mental health component at all, but plays the story off for laughs. It’s somewhat insidious to leave out that aspect of the story and paint it as a slapstick comedy routine. The mental health aspect is the main thrust of the story, and not that a woman did something outlandish. It’s gross to try and present it any other way.

Photo: Shutterstock