• Thu, Sep 26 - 4:30 pm ET

Nothing Says “Halloween” Like Costumes That Stigmatize Mental Illness!

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What idiot thought that selling Halloween costumes that mocked and further stigmatized would be a hilarious, spooky Halloween treat? British retailers Asda and Tesco, that’s who!

First, Asda tried to be a Halloween trickster and sell a ”mental patient fancy dress costume.” Oh god, I wish it weren’t so hilarious that it’s called a “fancy dress costume.”The outfit consists of a blood-splattered straitjacket, a creepy, grotesquely distorted mask, and a meat cleaver, to make it whimsical. This is exactly what the mentally ill look like!

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Not one to miss out on the “set the mental health profession back 50 years” game (traditionally played around Halloween; one bobs for apples while making not necessarily violent people with legitimate medical conditions feel like shit), Tesco sold a costume called “Psycho Ward.” It looks like a prison jumpsuit (Orange Is The New Get Your Head Out Of Your Ass, Halloween Execs?) with a giant COMMITTED printed on the back. The model wearing it also has a Hannibal Lecter-style mask, but for all we know that’s sold separately.

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Because people are mostly good, the Internet unleashed a shit storm of Twitter criticism, and both companies pulled the items and issued apologies. Asda (which is owned by WalMart), even pledged to make a donation to a mental health organization following the incident.

Given the staggering number of individuals who experience mental health issues, it’s pretty unthinkable that major retailers would make light of the situation in the way that they did. I will always be in favor of mental health jokes as long as they function to alleviate suffering or to help cope, and not to further stigmatize or hurt the mentally ill. Instead, these costumes demonstrate an overwhelming institutionalized bias against mental illness and those who seek treatment. It’s not the joking I have a problem with. These just aren’t funny.

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  • Layla

    it’s a costume. was there really nothing else to get outraged over? must have been a slow news day.

  • Charmless

    Really? It’s a movie character. They couldn’t license the name Hannibal Lecter, so they had to call it “psycho ward.” I understand being upset about cultural appropriation in the form of slutty geishas and Pocahontases (Pocahonti?) but… these are just goofy. I can’t speak for all of my fellow crazies, but this doesn’t bother me at all.

    • Lex_Discipulus

      Yeah I saw the “psycho ward” and was like “Hold the phone. I know that creepy mask.”

      That one seems more like they couldnt get a license like you said. But the first one? That one is just creepy.

    • Cari

      Yeah I feel a little less ill will toward Tesco given that’s very likely what happened, but they could have gone with something a bit more close to the inspiration for the costume like IDK “Cannibal convict” or something?

      The other one though… I’ve had the whole “dangerous ’cause of mental health issues” thing thrown at me so I know that a) people are totes ignorant and happy to stigmatise and b) it can be upsetting to be branded in that way.

  • Chava

    Uhh, I’ve spent time in a mental hospital, and I’m not offended by either of these. People are way too politically correct these days. Plus, the second one is pretty clearly Hannibal Lector.