UK supermarket giant Asda has apologised for their hugely inappropriate halloween costume marketed as the ‘Mental Patient Fancy Dress Costume’ which featured fake blood, a mask and a fake meat cleaver. They have withdrawn the sale of the said product and pledged to donate £25,000 to Charity Mind after they were bombarded with tweets from offended individuals such as ex-footballer Stan Collymore and charities such as Rethink Mental Illness.
Tesco, who had a similarly absurd ‘psycho ward’ costume (boiler suit, mask and machete) also withdrew their product subsequently and like Asda, have issued offical apologies.
As an advocate for teaching mental health awareness and diversity, I am hugely offended and horrified by the sale and advertisement of the costumes. We are still living in an age where people with mental illnesses are stigmatized, and stupid publicity stunts such as this is totally unacceptable. Not only does it fuel the negative stereotype but it also gives the masses an opportunity to publicly mock those who are living with mental illnesses. I am sure that they are aware of the fact that several people have killed themselves because they could not live with the stigma.
In addition, neither of these costumes accurately depict people with mental illness. Having visited many psychiatric wards and mental institutions, and having worked with people with psychiatric conditions, I have not seen anyone who dressed and looked like the pictures on Asda’s and Tesco’s advertisements. The mentally ill need support, understanding and acceptance. They certainly do not need any public mockery such as this. Apologies and donations are not enough.