How a 'mental patient' fancy dress costume can be a force for good

Paul BI’m really glad Asda and Tesco stocked those ‘mental patient’ and ‘psycho ward’ fancy dress outfits.

Let me explain myself. I like horror films, but that’s not the reason I’m glad. I like fancy dress, but that’s not the reason either. I like a laugh, and Halloween costumes are meant to be funny as well as scary, aren’t they? But that’s not the reason either.

No, I’m glad those outfits were made and sold for one reason – they have made a lot of people angry. And when that many people get angry about something, things change. People speak out, loudly and publicly. Their views get into the mainstream media. And suddenly, there is a powerful movement in society, united in anger and in a desire for change.

Tesco and Asda have acted and removed the products from stock

Things have changed today. Tesco and Asda have acted and removed the products from stock. How did they come to be stocked in the first place? I don’t know. Who made and marketed the appalling things in the first place? I don’t know that either.

What I do know is that no amount of positive blogs about mental health or courageous spokespeople have the same impact as collective fury, and today that fury made two of the biggest names in British retail change their actions – and you can bet they won’t let it happen again in a hurry.

This anger is not the same as 'not being able to take a joke'

There’s unquestionably a stigma to mental illness that lives on and manifests in unlikely ways and places – like a Halloween costume. The outpouring of anger at these costumes is not the same thing as ‘political correctness gone mad’ or ‘not being able to take a joke’. It’s a response to the belittling or stigmatising of people who are ill through no fault of their own. It’s an insult to one in four members of our population.

As someone who’s had counselling for depression and taken antidepressants for more than three years, I could be very upset about the demonization and stereotyping of people who need treatment for mental illness. But I’m not upset.

I’m glad that something high-profile and relatively easy to resolve has happened that shakes people up a bit and makes mental health a little bit easier for people to talk about.

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Comments

Mental Health Outfit

I agree Paul. And your arguments againgst the costume are spot on. I'm not offended by the costume even though I am a 'mental health patient' :) I am angered at the stupidity of people of those who think it is funny or that we can't take a joke or that it's just people being PC and easily offended. In what way does that costume depict a mental health patient. The stigma attached to mental health problems stops you being open about your illness and seeking help and makes you feel ashamed. I am sick of the stigma and so pleased that so many people spoke out against it today. I just wish I was brave enough to post the mental health patient costume on my fb with a picture of me :-).

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