On Halloween night, there are bound to be plenty of Nicki-Minaj-imposters, Snooki-look-alikes, and bright blue Smurfs out on the streets.
But there are some Halloween costumes you should definitely avoid: Those that portray the mentally ill. That’s because costumes that play on mental illness — such as psycho killers, mental-ward patients, and straight jacketed loons — reinforce a dangerous stigma.
The standard justification is ‘Well, I’m not intending to offend anyone, so what’s big deal?” But it’s not your ‘intention’, it’s the impact of your choices.
The U.S. Office of the Surgeon General (OSG) has pointed out that stigma is perhaps the greatest barrier to people who need help for their mental illnesses. According to the OSG, stereotypes (such as that people with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or major depression are “crazy,” “wacko,” and dangerous) can seriously impact a person’s chance for recovery and discourage him from seeking help.
In fact, stigma surrounding mental disorders is so strong that nearly two-thirds of people affected by them live in silence and go without treatment.
And that psycho-killer getup or the asylum-themed haunted house only makes things worse. If you think mental health advocates are getting too bent out of shape about this issue, then think about it this way. Would you ever don a costume that depicts a cancer patient who’s undergoing chemo-therapy. Yes we mean, droopy shoulders, balsding head and sunken eyes. Definitely not, right? So why play with the mentally ill?
A college dance team from Chicago recently received a lot of flak after performing a routine in straightjackets. The competitive dancers from Robert Morris University also donned dark eye makeup and frizzy hair to complete the “crazy” look. After a woman whose 16-year-old son has schizoaffective disorder caught wind of the gig, she complained to the university and they were quick to issue an apology.
Avoid the Dr. Hannibal look for sure. It’s definitely neither crazy nor cool.
All we are saying is , have fun but be responsible too.