Two of Britain's leading supermarkets have apologised for causing widespread offence by selling costumes allowing young people to imitate a “mental patient” on a “psycho ward”.
Asda and Tesco said their Halloween costumes had been pulled from shelves following 24 hours of increasing public disapproval, with Asda donating £25,000 to the mental-health charity Mind after it sold a blood-spattered straitjacket as a “mental patient fancy dress costume”.
Tesco said it was “really sorry” for offence caused by an adults' bright orange costume called “psycho ward” with the word “committed” printed on the back.
Asda described its donation as a “sincere gesture” for the “right reasons and not for publicity”. It had sold the straitjacket for £20 through its clothing arm, George. Tesco have joined Asda in making a donation, but would not specify how much it had given to Mind.
Sue Baker, director of Time to Change, England's biggest anti-stigma campaign, run by Mind and the group Rethink Mental Illness, said: “It's a welcome move that Asda and Tesco have reacted promptly by apologising and offering the contribution... However, what we really want to see is more pro-active support for Time to Change by... making a significant commitment to working with their staff and huge customer base to tackle mental health stigma and discrimination.
”We hope to continue this dialogue with Asda and Tesco.... We've seen organisations in almost all other sectors pledge to end stigma, but not major retailers - this is now the time for them to step up.“
Online retailer Amazon also advertised the ”psycho ward“ outfit, but they also joined the two supermarkets in saying the product was ”not available“. And eBay confirmed it had taken ”immediate action“ to remove the items. ”No future listings of this nature will be allowed,“ added a spokesman.
The flurry of apologies followed widespread criticism of the costume sales. Former Downing Street director of communications, Alastair Campbell, who has talked of his own mental-health issues, said: ”We are trying to change attitudes towards mental illness so people do not stigmatise it, and something like this... just reminds you we are basically still in the Dark Ages.“
Asda's Halloween costume was billed with the promise: “Everyone will be running away from you in fear in this mental patient fancy dress costume... it's a terrifying Halloween option.”