BLOGTOBER #17: TIPS FOR A STIGMA-FREE HALLOWEEN.

*Trigger warning, mentions to material regarding Halloween that some may find distressing. No images included.

Hello, me again!

Today marks the 17th post in honour of #Blogtober19, and today I wanted to talk about how to have a stigma-free Halloween.

We have made wonderful progress in challenging the myths and negative associations which surround mental illness. However, that all seems to change around the time of Halloween, with mental illness becoming sort of a gimmick.

Without even realising it, Halloween is filled with unnecessary stereotypes about those with mental illnesses…

  • THOSE WITH MENTAL ILLNESSES/ MENTAL PATIENTS DEPICTED IN HORROR FILMS.
  • POORLY CHOSEN COSTUMES:
    • Masks over mouths.
    • Straight jackets.
    • Mental patient costumes.
  • FALSE PERCEPTIONS AROUND THOSE WITH MENTAL ILLNESSES BEING FRIGHTENING, DANGEROUS AND VIOLENT.
  • THE USE OF THE WORD ‘ASYLUM’S TO REPRESENT HAUNTED HOUSES AND HALLOWEEN ATTRACTIONS.
  • DEPICTING INDIVIDUALS WITH MENTAL ILLNESS AS BEING CRAZY, UNCONTROLLABLE AND INSANE.
  • THE FREQUENT OVERUSE OF THE WORD ‘PSYCHO’ AND ‘EVIL”.
  • PORTRAYING THOSE WITH MENTAL ILLNESSES AS SERIAL KILLERS.

However, these interpretations of those with mental illness are often cruel and inaccurate. It shows us nothing more than pure ignorance surrounding our illnesses and can lower our self-esteem. Whilst it is true that we have made such progress within some areas of removing stigma and discrimination, we still seem very stuck in other areas.

Those of us who live with a mental illness are more likely to be a danger to ourselves than to anyone else, so to see depictions of us being dangerous and harmful to others can be really upsetting sometimes. We are also far more likely to be the victim of a serious crime rather than the perpetrator. The information which is quite the opposite of that shown in the media.

It is also worth noting at this point that Halloween, and this time of year in general, can be extremely difficult and triggering to some individuals living with mental illnesses. Popular triggers include:

  • POORLY CHOSEN DECORATIONS: HANGING BODIES ETC.
  • EXCESSIVE BLOOD.
  • SKELETONS
  • EXPOSED WOUNDS AND BANDAGES.
  • DEPICTIONS BOTH REAL AND FAKE OF MENTAL HOSPITALS.
  • BALACLAVAS AND OTHER MATERIALS WHICH COVER FACE.
  • REAL OR FAKE WEAPONS SUCH AS KNIVES AND GUNS.

WHAT CAN I DO TO ENSURE A STIGMA-FREE HALLOWEEN?

#1 Be mindful of your costume choices. Using someone else’s experience with mental illness as a costume, at their expense is not okay. Just give it some thought when planning any outfits, does it produce misconceptions about people with mental illness?

#2 That’s not to say don’t dress up, do! Just choose outfits which do not stigmatise those with mental illness, like…

  • A vampire.

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  • A zombie.

halloween-zombie-schoolchild-for-couple.jpg

  • A werewolf.

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  • A ghost

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  • A pirate

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I’m sure you get the idea… There are plenty of possibilities!

#3 If you see a costume or decoration being sold in a shop that you find offensive or inappropriate, please report it! Help to spread awareness.

#4 If you see a costume or decoration being worn or displayed that you find offensive or inappropriate, use it as an opportunity to start a conversation about mental illness and it’s stigma. Have they thought about the impact their costume or decoration might have? This can feel embarrassing, but we all know how important it is.

#5 Be mindful of the decorations you display. Now we have read about how triggering it can be, it might seem easier to think about how it looks for someone else. Think of those around you who may have a different perception of this holiday. Also, take into consideration whether you would like to have trick or treaters if you wish to avoid trick or treaters it may be worth not displaying them outside your house.

#6 Look out for your loved ones with and without mental illnesses. It can be a difficult time of year, you don’t know who may be struggling. If you do notice someone struggling, listen, empathise and validate them. Instead of frustration, try and offer support.

#7 Be mindful that whilst some things may not trigger you, they may trigger someone else. It may be hard for someone to answer the door to people they don’t know, especially trick or treaters. Late evening knocks on the door can trigger many people’s anxiety. If possible, arrange for someone else to answer the door for you.

#8 Help to spread awareness for those who suffer at this time of year, it can be a simple post just like mine! 

#9 Accept that it is okay to be different. 

#10 Understand and respect that for those with mental illnesses, Halloween can trigger, further stigmatise and set mental health advocacy back. And that my friends, is scarier than any ghosts and ghouls.

It is well established that one of the greatest barriers to getting help for mental illnesses is acknowledging that you actually have one. Therefore, seeing negative stereotypes and associations year after year can really discourage someone from getting the treatment they really need.

Halloween can be one of the best and funniest times of the year, let’s not exploit other’s disadvantages for the sake of our own entertainment. Everyone deserves to feel safe and respected.

What are you planning to do for Halloween?

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One thought on “BLOGTOBER #17: TIPS FOR A STIGMA-FREE HALLOWEEN.

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