A woman who destroyed a Target mask display stand says we aren't paying enough attention to pandemic mental health

clopez@businessinsider.com (Canela López)
QAnon Karen
QAnon Karen

Rex Chapman/Twitter

  • Melissa Rein Lively's name spread across the internet in early July after she posted a thread of Instagram videos where she destroys a Target mask display stand.

  • The Arizona woman yelled obscenities as she ripped off masks from the stand.

  • Lively claimed to be the spokesperson for QAnon. Police later apprehended her at home to take her to a mental health facility.

  • She now says she regrets her actions, and her public outburst reflects a growing mental health problem during the pandemic.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Video: 6 months of the coronavirus pandemic in 6 minutes

In early July, Melissa Rein Lively posted a string of Instagram stories showing her destroying a mask display stand in a Scottsdale, Arizona Target.

The videos, which spread across the internet, show Lively yelling obscenities as she plucks off all the masks from a display stand and throws them on the floor.

"You let everybody else do it," Lively told two Target employees who approached her. "I can't do it because I'm a blonde white woman? Because I'm wearing a $40,000 Rolex, I don't have the right to f--- s--- up?"

In an Instagram Live later the same day, Lively told two police officers (which her husband had called out of concern for her mental health) that she's a spokesperson for QAnon and has frequent phone calls with President Trump. Twitter users and media outlets subsequently named her "QAnon Karen" ("Karen" is a meme-able shorthand for white women acting in an entitled and sometimes racist fashion.)

Lively's anti-mask meltdown led to her being hospitalized for a week, all of her public relations clients dropping her, and her husband filing for divorce according to USA Today.

Her breakdown is a public example of the mental health issues people are facing during the pandemic.

"I can absolutely see that how I acted was unbelievably inappropriate not to mention classless and just completely out of character for how I conduct myself, professionally and personally," she told USA Today.

Lively says her outburst was related to her worsening mental health in quarantine, and she is not alone

Lively told USA Today her outburst was caused by a manic episode triggered by the stress of the pandemic coupled with her bipolar disorder.

In a manic episode, someone with bipolar disorder can become more impulsive, reckless, and lose touch with reality.

"I think mental illness has been really something that has not been addressed as a result of this pandemic," she told USA Today. "Because what happened to me was scary and it changed my life forever. I felt I had absolutely no control over my actions."

Lively is not alone. A growing number of mental health professionals worry about what the long-term impacts of the pandemic will be on those with existing mental health conditions.

"I think the people who have a history of mental illness, it puts them at risk of a relapse," Dr. Karestan Koenen, an epidemiologist and professor of psychiatric epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, previously told Insider. "If someone has a history of depression, they're more at risk of having depression again."

A lack of access to mental health care facilities and structured routines combined with social isolation all contribute to the added stress placed on people with existing mental health conditions.

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