Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Mental Illness Stigma and Halloween

Halloween is one of the oldest recorded observances.

The tradition started over two thousand years ago with The Celts, who believed that the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred on October 31st. On that "Hallow's Eve" they built bonfires and wore ghostly costumes to drive the evil spirits away. Some carried a lantern crafted out of potato or turnip to intimidate the demons around them.

The National Alliance For Mental Illness reminds us that not only is it the season for ghosts and goblins, but also stigma. Costumes and seasonal attractions that feature psychos, mental patients, and insane asylums perpetuate stereotypes. Intended as fun, these violent stereotypes serve to perpetuate stigma -- which as reported by the U.S. Surgeon General as an enormous source of prejudice and discrimination for children and adults who live with mental illness. 

Tips to Help Reduce Stigma
NAMI recommends the following tips to help raise awareness of mental health stigma at Halloween time. 
For costumes:
  • Let family, friends and local community groups know your concerns.
  • Post comments on company or store Facebook pages.
  • Send a message through website “contact” features—or after a little sleuthing, to the company’s CEOs or public relations executives. Their email addresses are sometimes listed under “corporate” or “investor” information.
  • Contact the managers of local stores to ask that politely that costumes be removed from shelves and that they share your concern with regional managers to be communicated up the corporate chain.
For asylum attractions:
  • Alert your local NAMI Affiliate, family and friends to phone or email the sponsor of an attraction. Post on the company Facebook or Twitter pages.
  • Contact sponsors. Ask that offensive parts of an attraction or advertisements be removed. Changing a name and using “haunted castle” and generic “monster” themes may be all it takes.
  • Ask for as group meeting. Be flexible and patient. In some cases a sponsor can’t make changes immediately but will agree to do so in the future. If so, ask for a public statement or letter. Use it also as an opportunity to find ways to work together looking forward for community education.
  • Large commercial attractions may be difficult or slow to change because of the amount of financial investment.
  • Local civic organizations, high school clubs or similar community groups have greater desire to resolve controversy--they often have no awareness of stigma issues and did not intend to offend.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this especially beneficial blog post. We are in the process of addressing a children's mental patient costume as well as similar adult costumes. I've including a link to our petition: .