The spooky season of Halloween is often filled with scares and fun activities for all ages. However, certain costumes and activities can pass the line from lighthearted fun to offensive stereotyping when presenting characterized images of people facing mental illness.
It’s been said before, but is warranted to say again, that mental illness isn’t a costume to wear. The most common of these costumes you may think of is that of a mental patient in a strait jacket but can also include self-harm makeup and noose neckties. These kinds of costumes further stigmatize mental illness as something to be feared and makes light of the hardships that those with mental illness have to go through.
Beyond costumes are decorations that also fit this mold. Stuffed figures hanging from trees, “mental asylum” attractions, and other such decorations depicting suicide and mental illness all further stigmas surrounding these issues.
All of this is without saying how these kinds of costumes and decorations can affect individuals. Imagine someone who has lost a loved one by suicide passing by decorations depicting that very thing everyday for weeks. It’s both triggering and traumatic.
None of this is meant to put a damper on anyone who wants to have fun this Halloween. Just put a little forethought into the kinds of costumes and decorations that you use. The kinds of negative effects they can have are very real, and we here at NAMI want nothing more then for everyone to be able to enjoy this Halloween season.
Be mindful when choosing your decorations and costumes and perhaps choose to mention the negative impact the next time that you encounter a business that sell such costumes or that hosts events which negatively depict mental illness.