Some of you may think this is weird, but six retailers are now selling “gone mental” costumes for Halloween. What message does this send? It is clearly offensive and distressing. I and about millions more are diagnosed with mental health conditions, and there’s a reason such diagnoses are confidential, according to the Health Insurance Privacy Act. I am not wearing ripped clothing, blood all over, or a straitjacket. Please read the following, taken from Mental Health America’s Petition to remove the Halloween costumes about mental illness.
Halloween costumes are meant to be scary or funny, but costumes such as “Gone Mental” that caricature individuals in psychiatric hospitals are neither. They are offensive and harmful.
Individuals living with mental health conditions are not costume characters. Mental health conditions do not make someone a serial killer, covered in blood and dirt with ripped clothing. Costumes like “Gone Mental,” “Happy Hill Asylum,” and “Psycho Ward” contribute only to stereotypes and misunderstandings that all individuals living with mental health conditions are violent and scary.
In fact, people living with mental health conditions are more likely than those without to be the victims of violent crime than the perpetrators. Psychiatric hospitals are not haunted houses. Though imperfect, they are places where individuals go for treatment (and wear their everyday clothes, not torn and bloody outfits or straitjackets).
One in five adults in the United States will have a diagnosable mental health condition in any given year, and 50 percent of Americans will meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental health condition sometime in their life. Unfortunately, these conditions often go untreated until a crisis stage because people are afraid of being associated with negative stereotypes. Consequently, people do not get early care and are often at higher risk for having more serious detrimental health effects – even dying 25 years earlier than individuals without mental health conditions.
So it’s time to stop perpetuating the myth that those with a mental illness are dangerous and scary. Not only are these Halloween costumes themselves misleading and harmful, but the names and labels associated with them are stigmatizing. This video from Mental Health America of Franklin County, called “Stop the Crazy Talk,” demonstrates the impact of labels like “psycho,” “insane,” and “lunatic.”
Costumes such as “Gone Mental” serve only to perpetuate stigma and discrimination against people living with mental illness. This means that individuals are often afraid to get help until they are in a crisis stage – until they reach Stage 4.
Spirit Halloween has already graciously removed “Gone Mental” children’s costumes from their inventory thanks to grassroots advocacy led by Gayle Ayres.
It’s time we ask other companies to follow suit and remove these offensive and harmful costumes from their inventories.
People with mental health conditions are people, not costumes or jokes. They are our mothers, our fathers, our siblings, and our children. It’s time we stand up and speak out for dignity and respect.
Stop the Crazy Talk. If this link doesn’t work, use the link in the petition site.