Stigma against those with mental illness can occur 365 days per year. But Halloween has recently become a favorite time for individuals to thoughtlessly perpetuate myths about people with mental illness – that they are “scary” and generally dangerous. Communities proudly announce their “haunted insane asylum” exhibits for families, and one of the hottest costume accessories this year is a straitjacket.
The National Alliance of Mental Illness is asking that we put a stop to such ways of celebrating Halloween. They point out that the U.S. Surgeon General has proclaimed that stigma is one of the country major barriers to individuals seeking mental health care. And what can be more stigmatizing than holding up individuals with mental illness as objects of either fear or ridicule?
This year, take a moment to think about the message your child’s – or your own – Halloween activities may send. If you see something offensive in a store, let the store manager know. Simple actions such as these can make a difference.
We all like to have fun on Halloween, and we don’t think folks should take themselves too seriously. But let’s be serious about doing away with stigma – not just on Halloween but the other 364 days each year. It’s a problem that should –er, haunt us until it goes away.
In the photo above, Stuart and Amanda Perry demonstrate a fun way to dress during Halloween week!