By Casey Dillon, Advocacy Associate
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.
"Gone Mental" Boys Costume at Costume Express
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. The video below, from Mental Health America of Franklin County, 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.
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.
Sign the petition or contact retailers directly using the information below:
Help & Customer Service
c/o BuySeasons, Inc.
5915 S. Moorland Rd.
New Berlin, WI 53151
http://www.costumeexpress.com/info/12 (must access email through their website)
Costume Super Center
45 Fernwood Ave.
Edison, NJ 08837
http://support.costumesupercenter.com/ (must access email through their website)
402 Main Street, Suite 100-192
Metuchen, NJ 08840
http://support.halloweenadventure.com/ (must access email through their website)
2080 Lookout Drive
North Mankato, MN 56003
http://www.halloweencostumes.com/boys-gone-mental-costume.html (chat option available at top of page)
Party City Corporation
25 Green Pond Road
Rockaway, NJ 07866
http://www.partycity.com/category/customer+service/contact+us.do (must access email through their website)
Mental Health America would like to thank Gayle Ayres for bringing “Gone Mental” costumes to our attention and for researching the above contact information.