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  • Writer's pictureLisa Varty

It’s Time To End Media Exploitation Of Mental Health And Disabilities

Julia Wendell a Repeat of the Anna Anderson Saga


Well, I find myself pondering the state of humanity once again, recently the media have been obsessed with a 21-year-old woman who believed she was Madeleine McCann. Most of us know who Madeleine is/was, on the 3rd of May 2007, whist on holiday with her family in Praia da Luz, Portugal.



Image of Madeleine McCann at 3 year old: Copyright belongs to Kate and Gerry McCann
Image of Madeleine McCann at 3 year old: Copyright belongs to Kate and Gerry McCann

She disappeared from the families holiday apartment whilst her parents where dinning with just a stones through away at a restaurant within the holiday complex, Maddie’s disappearance sparked an police international search and until this day no trace of her can be found, she will be 20 year old on May 12th 2023.


But this blog post isn’t about Maddie, it’s about a young woman from Poland who according to her parents has a history of mental health issues, I’m assuming by now, due the media frenzy over the last few weeks that you probably already know her name, but for those of you who haven’t heard of her, it's Julia Wendell. Julia holds the belief that she is in fact Madeleine McCann despite the discrepancy in age and other factors, she has convinced herself of this, I don’t quite know of the circumstances of how she came to this conclusion, but she did. Over the last few weeks Julia became a media sensation because of her belief and attracted the attention of ‘Dr’ Fia Johansson because of her very large following on social media.



Image of Fia Johansson and Julia Wendell, Credit Fia Johansson
Image of Fia Johansson and Julia Wendell, Credit Fia Johansson

Over the last few weeks Julia’s story has headlined on many media outlets and publications, she was even featured on The Dr Phil show (an American, daytime TV talk show), she achieved this with the ‘help’ of ‘Dr’ Fia Johansson. The first time I read about Julia was in news article that claimed software company Ava-X’s new facial recognition program that analysed and image of Julia, had concluded that there was 90 per cent chance that Julia could be Madeline McCann, this of course fed Julia’s belief further. DNA tests submitted by Julia and ‘Dr’ Fia Johansson and over the last couple of days the results have been confirmed and published and have proven that Julia is most definitely NOT Maddie.



Image Anna Anderson circa 1922, author unknown
Image Anna Anderson circa 1922, author unknown

The whole story sounds outlandish, and I think a majority of people already knew what the results would yield. But there have been cases where people have become delusional and wholeheartedly came to believe they are not the person that others around them know them to be, one very documented case is that of Franziska Schanzkowska AKA Anna Anderson, just over 100 years ago Anna, believed she was The Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia, who was murdered by a group of Bolsheviks, along with her parents Nicholas II and Alexandra, the last Tsar and Tsarina of Russia and her siblings during The Russian Revolution in 1918. Rumours were rife that Anastasia had in fact escaped and survived the tragedy, but in later years these rumours have been 100% disproven with scientific evidence. But in 1922, when Anna Anderson was institutionalized and began to make these claims were hard to prove or disprove. Some Medics described Anna as being delusionally traumatized into adopting a new identity and this could be the case with Julia.


Whatever reason Julia has for believing she isn’t the biological child of the parents who raised her is beyond me, but it’s clear she is in mental and emotional distress and needs real, professional help, not exploitation, but sadly this is what has happened Julia has been exploited by ‘Dr’ Fia Johansson and some media outlets. This has raised both Julia and Fia’s public profiles and not in a good way. I keep having articles about Julia’s case pop-up on my social media feeds and what is even more disturbing than the exploitation of a vulnerable adult is the comments the public have made on posts about the case.


Why are some people so quick to judge someone’s mental health and have no empathy even in 2023? It was clear from the beginning that Julia is unwell, and people have laughed at her, made rude comments about her mental health and looks, when they should be crying out to get her the help she so desperately needs. A woman took vulnerable adult who is stuck in a delusion, was granted power of attorney over her, despite only knowing her for a short time and being of no relation created a media circus for her own gain. She even slated the woman’s parents and accused them of stealing and trafficking a child. How is no one outraged by this?



Stock Image promoting World Mental Health Day
Stock Image promoting World Mental Health Day

Now that DNA test results have confirmed that Julia isn’t Maddie it’s been reported that Julia has returned to Poland and apparently ‘Dr’ Fia Johansson has parted ways with her but wishes her well. My fear is that Julia will be subjected to public persecution when what she needs is empathy and support, there are many mental health issues that can cause delusions, such as Psychosis, Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder and it’s entirely possible Julia has such a condition which is being left untreated whilst the media and Fia have chewed her up and spat her out. I really hope that Julia is now getting the help she needs and that the media will back off and let her recover.


It’s time people’s perception of mental health and all disabilities changed for the better, and rather than creating media frenzies that allow people to make derogatory comments about mental health on social platforms, write positively and informatively about mental health conditions and disabilities.


Article written by Lisa Varty for Quill Copywriting and Journalism LTD. ©


#JusticeForJulia #MentalHealthMatters #EndAbleism #BeKind

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