If it’s not okay to dress as a cancer patient for Halloween, it’s not okay to dress as a mental patient

We all have physical health and we all have mental health. The two are equal and should be treated that way.

Share

Before the whole ‘mental patient’ costume outrage kicked off, I’d spent yesterday evening sitting outside a pub discussing Halloween costumes made, worn or seen by myself and friends over the years. As ever, some were predictable; most were PC, but others, not so much at all. There will always be at least one person at a party who makes it their mission to push the boundaries; Jimmy Saville was last year’s popular choice, but I’ve heard much worse. It’s a question of taste, of course.

Last night, on my return home from the pub, I noticed my Twitter feed filling up with a surprisingly fast-flowing mixture of outrage, shock and anger directed towards Asda and Tesco for stocking and selling a ‘mental patient’ outfit complete with blood spattered gown and meat cleaver and in a ‘psycho ward’ costume. Without the labels, these costumes would be exactly the kind of get-up you’d see on October 31, but bring mental health into the equation and it’s clear now, that those affected by or work with mental health problems are going to react, and not quietly.

Within 24 hours, #mentalpatient was trending on Twitter, users were posting ‘selfies’ to show the world what mental patients really look like (surprisingly normal, actually), mental health charities had issued statements, the costumes had been withdrawn, apologies made and donations pledged. In addition to that, the reaction of those opposed not to the costume itself, but to the connotations they held, made headline news; deservingly so.

Some said that it must have been a slow news day; that this outrage was an overreaction. But sometimes overreaction is necessary. As pathetic as it may seem to some, thousands of people getting angry over a costume was a valid and understandable reaction and it worked because the right people are finally realising that something does have to change and that mental health discrimination must be taken seriously, whatever guise it may be in. It’s easy to make the presumption that an outcry over fancy dress is a tad pathetic, but the fact is that those who were getting angry about the ‘mental patient’ costumes weren’t getting angry over nothing.

Unless you’re planning to dress as Walter White this Halloween, going as a cancer patient would be pretty disgusting, tasteless and really not funny in any way at all. We all have physical health and we all have mental health. They are equal and people have campaigned for years to try to make people aware of that fact. The two are equal and should be treated that way. If it’s not okay to dress as a cancer patient, it’s not okay to dress as a ‘mental patient’, especially in the way Asda and Tesco depicted it.

The truth is that 1 in 4 of us experience mental health problems (supermarket workers included), and here’s a little secret, between you and me: we’re not all dangerous and we’re not all potential murderers. What is just as scary though, is that people with mental health problems are still discriminated against and still live in fear of the stigma that surrounds it. Anything that can be done to reduce that stigma should be done and this whole debacle and the reaction to it is proof that if enough people shout about something unfair and unacceptable, people have no choice but to listen and act.

Apologies and donations are okay; but let’s hope that important lessons are learnt here, not only by Asda and Tesco, but also on a wider scale, to anybody who has ever made the lazy yet unfortunately stereotypical association between mental illness and mad criminals. We’re alright, really.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Lawyer - Cheshire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...

Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Michael Brown was shot and killed by police in August  

Ferguson: Sad truth is that Michael Brown was killed because he was a black man

Bonnie Greer
A protestor poses for a  

Ferguson verdict: This isn't a 'tragedy'. This is part of a long-running genocide of black men in America

Otamere Guobadia
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital