5 Ways You Can End Halloween Stigma Against Mental Illness

Halloween is RIGHT around the corner! For many people—Halloween means spooky haunted houses, beautifully carved pumpkins, and intricate homemade costumes. For many people affected by mental illness—Halloween means fear and increased amounts of stigma.

There are many companies, such as amusement parks and haunted houses that have been creating “haunted asylums” for the Halloween season. Additionally, many Halloween costume stores sell hurtful and insensitive costumes, such as straightjackets. This is extremely stigmatizing towards people with mental illness. We need YOU to help us end these stigmatizing activities in your local communities!

If you see something stigmatizing in your community, here are some quick and easy ways to put an end to it:

1.      Contact the company!
Just start with a nice, polite dialogue! Some people might be unaware that this is stigma-causing, so educate them. Politely ask them to remove the offensive parts of the attraction or merchandise that mock mental illness.

2.      Alert other NAMI members!
If attempts at a polite conversation are unsuccessful, alert other NAMI members, family, or friends. Ask them to phone, send letters, or email the companies!

3.      Contact your local media
Educate your local media about the “Halloween-stigma” and their concerns. If they have promotional stories about a haunted asylum, ask them to also run a story about the protest and individuals living with mental illness.

4.      Make the protest a “news event”.
This can be a great teaching moment for a lot of your community’s figures! Offer individuals or family members who have been affected by mental illness for personal interviews.

5.      Be flexible
Keep in mind, some companies cannot make changes immediately but might agree to do so in the future. Be persistent and be polite. Remember that your hard work will eventually pay off!

Be prepared for some backlash. Many people in a community may say, “It’s only Halloween”. Always remember, it’s not “only Halloween”. The holiday season is not excuse to remain polite and respectful towards those with a mental illness.

Written by Jamie Gurgul, PR & Events Coordinator, NAMI Wisconsin