Thorpe Park must close down its stigmatising Asylum maze

Can corporations please stop casting mental health patients as maniacal killers?

Share

In the last few days I’ve been accused of “ruining Halloween”, had a petition started against me and been labelled paranoid and a meddler. Why? Because I took a stand against the stigmatisation of mental health. I called for the closure of Thorpe Park’s attraction 'The Asylum', a themed maze based on an asylum for mentally ill people, with guests being chased by 'patients'.

Research into the effect of stigma on people's lives has shown that 71 per cent of people feel limited by attitudes towards mental illness, and 6 out of 10 employers openly admit they would not consider someone with mental health problems for a job. This is why the clumsy and insensitive handling of mental illness by companies like The Sun, Asda and Tesco is so socially irresponsible... and now Thorpe Park as well.

In the wake of the Halloween costume fiasco a few weeks ago, when Tesco and Asda were lambasted for their tasteless costumes depicting mental health patients, I have to ask: how could anyone at Thorpe Park HQ think this would be a good idea? Asda quickly made a humble apology following their error of judgement, making a donation of the £25k profits from the costumes to a mental health charity. 

Interestingly, Thorpe Park took a different tack. As people made complaints on Twitter, they repeatedly tweeted back saying that they had not received a "serious level of complaint" and would therefore not be taking any action. I decided I wanted to show Thorpe Park what "serious complaint" looks like, and that's when I set up the petition on Change.org.

Not everyone agrees with me - more than one petition has been created in opposition. Some feel this is "political correctness gone mad". I was accused of not being able to have fun. I disagree.

It’s not just the word. Calling the attraction 'The Asylum' isn’t the point. It’s the link to mental health patients, with actors dressing up and chasing after guests. This isn't a connection I have made, as people have accused me of: it's Thorpe Park's doing.

An open letter penned by organisations Mind, Rethink, The Lancet Psychiatry journal and the Royal College of Psychiatry makes the point that this ride perpetuates the myth that mental health patients are dangerous -  just look at the chainsaw wielding maniac chasing people away from the maze. This kind of misrepresentation and demonisation is why people with mental health conditions are five times more likely to be assaulted than those who don't. Big companies like Thorpe Park, Asda and Tesco have a responsibility not to fuel misconceptions and make profit out of the most vulnerable in society. 

Yesterday, The Sun newspaper printed a correction to its offensive front page headline “1,200 killed by mental patients” following public outrage. This correction is a big step for mental health campaigners. Public perception is changing, slowly - my petition has collected over 4500 signatures and is still going - but Thorpe Park’s Asylum is a step backwards in defeating stigma, and needs to go.

Katie Sutton is a student nurse at the University of Salford. You can sign the Change.org petition here.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Construction Solicitor – Surrey

Excellent Salary Package: Austen Lloyd: This is a rare high level opportunity ...

Construction Solicitor NQ+ Manchester

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: This is an excellent opportunity within...

Corporate Finance

£80000 - £120000 per annum + Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: US QUALI...

Banking / Finance Associate - City

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: Banking / Finance Associate - We have an exce...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Enjoy the sushi and hot noodles while you can, Barack – the Chinese will remain cold

David Usborne
David Moyes has been backed by Sir Bobby Charlton to succeed at Manchester United  

It's not David Moyes I pity, but the other over-50s facing unemployment

Simon Kelner
Migrants in Britain a decade on: The Poles who brought prosperity

Migrants in Britain a decade on

The Poles who brought prosperity
Philippe Legrain: 'The eurozone crisis has tipped many into disillusionment, despair and extremism - we need a European Spring'

Philippe Legrain: 'We need a European Spring'

The eurozone crisis has tipped many into disillusionment, despair and extremism - this radically altered landscape calls for a new kind of politics, argues the economist
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A moment of glory on the Western Front for the soldiers of the Raj

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A moment of glory on the Western Front for the soldiers of the Raj
Judith Owen reveals how husband Harry Shearer - star of This Is Spinal Tap and The Simpsons - helped her music flourish

Judith Owen: 'How my husband helped my music flourish'

Her mother's suicide and father's cancer also informed the singer-songwriter's new album, says Pierre Perrone
The online lifeline: How a housing association's remarkable educational initiative gave hope to tenant battling long-term illness and depression

Online lifeline: Housing association's educational initiative

South Yorkshire Housing Association's free training courses gave hope to tenant battling long-term illness and depression
Face-recognition software: Is this the end of anonymity for all of us?

Face-recognition software: The end of anonymity?

The software is already used for military surveillance, by police to identify suspects - and on Facebook
Train Kick Selfie Guy is set to scoop up to $250,000 thanks to his viral video - so how can you cash in on your candid moments?

Viral videos: Cashing in on candid moments

Train Kick Selfie Guy Jared Frank could receive anything between $30,000 to $250,000 for his misfortune - and that's just his cut of advertising revenue from being viewed on YouTube
The world's fastest elevators - 20 metres per second - are coming soon to China

World's fastest elevators coming soon to China

Whatever next? Simon Usborne finds out from Britain's highest authority on the subject
Cityfathers tackles long-hours culture that causes men to miss out on seeing their children

Cityfathers tackles long-hours culture

The organisation is the brainchild of Louisa Symington-Mills, a chief operating officer who set up Citymothers in 2012 - a group that now boasts more than 3,000 members
Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home

It's not always fun in the sun: Moving abroad does not guarantee happiness

Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home
Migrants in Britain a decade on: They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire

Migrants in Britain a decade on

They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire
Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

The 'Thick of It' favourite thinks the romcom is an 'awful genre'. So why is he happy with a starring role in Sky Living's new Lake District-set series 'Trying Again'?
Why musicians play into their old age

Why musicians play into their old age

Nick Hasted looks at how they are driven by a burning desire to keep on entertaining fans despite risking ridicule
How can you tell a gentleman?

How can you tell a gentleman?

A list of public figures with gallant attributes by Country Life magazine throws a fascinating light on what it means to be a gentleman in the modern world
Pet a porter: posh pet pampering

Pet a porter: posh pet pampering

The duo behind Asos and Achica have launched a new venture offering haute couture to help make furry companions fashionable