Mental Illness is not a Halloween Theme

Let’s Stop the Scary Stigma 

Halloween is right around the corner! Before you start binging on candy and donning your costume, it’s important to think about the implications behind certain Halloween themes.  

Mental health is already highly stigmatized, which leads those suffering to feel ostracized from society. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 1 in 5 individuals live with a diagnosable mental illness, yet the negative attitudes and misconceptions live on. People with mental illness live in fear every day that others may find out about their disorder and pass misguided judgment, and unfortunately many avoid treatment for this very reason.  

Halloween is supposed to be a time of fun, but for those with mental illness, it can be a time of shame.  

children running with halloween costumes
Controversial Costumes 

Recent years have shed light upon the offensive cultural appropriation of many Halloween costumes such as Native Americans, Geishas, and the use of blackface. However, there are still many costumes that poke fun at mental illness. The idea of dressing up as a person with mental health issues is highly problematic, especially when accompanied with demeaning descriptors and/or costume attire.

Remember, individuals who struggle from mental health issues aren’t scary, but the way they are often portrayed can be hurtful 

Asylum Attractions 

Unfortunately, closed, outdated hospitals have become a common theme for haunted attractions. Haunted houses are designed and advertised as terrifying. The goal is to scare, placing mental health into the mix equates mental illness as something that should be feared and avoided. Could you imagine if other medical facilities or hospitals were advertised as entertainment? A mental health center should be regarded no different.  

What Can You Do? 
  • Acknowledge the inappropriateness of these costumes and attractions. 
  • Talk to your friends or family if they’re inadvertently perpetuating stereotypes. 
  • Educate yourself on common misconceptionstry swapping out these common words and phrases. 
  • Raise awareness to the severity of mental health issues in the country.  

As you keep others in mind as you shop for your Halloween costume and decorations this year, we’ll be one step closer to ending the stigma against mental illness.