What’s the scariest part about Halloween? It continues to stigmatize people struggling with mental illness. Yes, there will always be the person with a questionable costume choice, but too often, people use mental illness as their costume "theme". Or worse, the local haunted house uses “mentally ill” characters to scare its guests.
Unfortunately, the scary truth is that after the fear fades away, the stigma remains. A “mentally ill” character chasing visitors through the halls of a haunted house does not reflect the reality. People suffering with mental illness are not scary - they’re struggling with an illness. How would we react if someone dressed up like a cancer patient? To many people, this may be viewed as a “So what?” moment. It’s done in fun, and only once a year. What’s the harm in that?
It’s possible that even to a person struggling with a mental illness it may not be a big deal, but what about the others who don’t come forward for care because of the fear they’ll be labeled as someone scary? The “So what” is that kids and families may not seek treatment because of what others will think about them.
Isn't it time to respect the reality of mental illness? When do we start to see mental illness for what it is? An illness that strikes one in four adults and one in five children. It's an illness that is often treatable, if individuals and families can overcome the stigma and seek help.
What will you do this Halloween? Will you have a conversation with the friend thinking about this costume choice? Or make a call to the haunted house using these characters? If it’s done in an open informative manner, they may choose to change to something less stigmatizing and a little more "Up-lifting."
We would like to hear your thoughts. Comment on the One in Five Minds Facebook page here.
There have been some excellent posts written in the past year about mental illness and Halloween. We’ve included links below.