Halloween will soon be here!
Unfortunately, “Halloween Horrors” have already arrived.
They involve “haunted asylum” attractions with depictions of residents as violent monsters. In other cases, stores sell “mental patient” costumes with straitjackets. They perpetuate stigmatizing, offensive stereotypes of people living with mental illness.
Don’t get me wrong, NAMI loves Halloween as much as anyone else. But would anyone sponsor an attraction based on a cancer ward? Take middle school kids on a field trip to see one? Promote one based on offensive racial or ethnic stereotypes?
The U.S. Surgeon General has identified stigma as a major barrier to people in reaching out for mental health care when they need it. People struggling with mental illness also often internalize it, impeding recovery.
In 2010, NAMI Ohio led a protest of a major amusement park's special Halloween attraction “Dr. D. Mented's Asylum for the Criminally Insane.” It provided an important “teaching moment” in the news media and dialogue with the park, which to its credit, ultimately agreed to change the name and theme of the attraction for future years.
Here are just a few targets for protest this year. Contact information is included if you wish to lend your voice (Don’t forget to also post a comment on their Facebook pages!) See also the tactics outlined below.
So What Can You Do?
Is there a “Halloween Horror” in your own community? Do you want to speak out? Here are some tactics to consider:
We’re always accepting submissions to the NAMI Blog! We feature the latest research, stories of recovery, ways to end stigma and strategies for living well with mental illness. Most importantly: We feature your voices.
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