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really look like (surprisingly normal, actually), mental health charities had issued statements, the costumes had been withdrawn, apologies made and donations pledged.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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

This week has shown why Yvette Cooper is the right person to lead Labour

Mary Creagh
 

Errors & Omissions: Whoever and whatever Arthur was, he wasn’t Scottish

Guy Keleny
The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea