In October this year, the supermarket giant was forced to remove a Halloween costume from sale, after it sparked outrage from mental health campaigners and the wider public.
The ‘mental patient’ outfit comprised of torn, bloodstained clothes and a meat cleaver. It provoked a twitter storm, with real ‘mental patients’ tweeting photos of themselves in their ordinary clothes with the hashtag #mentalpatient.
Paul Jenkins, CEO of Rethink Mental Illness said: “This could be seen as a negative story, but actually, the backlash served to highlight just how far we’ve come as a society in terms of our attitudes towards damaging mental health stereotypes.
“The public made it clear that they were not willing to accept outdated, stigmatizing representations of people with mental health problems – it was a landmark moment in the fight against stigma. For me it signified that we are reaching a tipping point in attitudes towards mental illness.”
The full list of the ‘top five mental health moments of 2013’ according to the charity was as follows:
1. Asda withdraws its ‘mental patient’ fancy dress costume. After an outcry from the public, Asda was forced to remove its ‘mental patient’ fancy dress costume from sale. The Halloween outfit comprised of torn, bloodstained clothes and a meat cleaver. The controversy sparked a twitter storm with real ‘mental patients’ tweeting photos of themselves in their ordinary clothes with the hash tag #mentalpatient.
2. The Sun newspaper's '1,200 killed by mental patients' headline ignites backlash from campaigners. This Sun headline was widely condemned by commentators and mental health organisations for being deliberately misleading and fueling stigma. Rethink Mental Illness CEO Paul Jenkins called it ‘sensational and damaging’. In response to the outcry, the paper later printed a clarification which stated that, “The Sun recognises that the vast majority of people with mental health problems pose no threat to anybody and are much more likely to take their own life or self-harm than be a risk to others.”
3. Channel 4’s ‘Bedlam’ series. In October, Channel 4 aired a groundbreaking documentary series Bedlam, which showed the sometimes tough reality of living with severe mental illness. Staff and patients at the South London and Maudsley, the world’s oldest psychiatric institution, were filmed for several months, resulting in a moving four-part series. Reaction from campaigners was positive and many felt the series successfully challenged the myths and taboos around mental illness.
4. Historic laws which discriminated against people with mental health problems are scrapped by parliament. In February, parliament passed the Mental Health (Discrimination) Bill, which put an end to archaic laws which interfered with the rights of people with mental health problems from participating in jury service and becoming or remaining a company director.
5. Court rules that fit-for-work benefits tests are unfair for people with mental health problems. In an historic court victory, three judges ruled in May that fit-for-work benefits tests are unfair for people with mental health problems. This means the Government may be forced to make vital changes to the benefits system. The case is ongoing and a final outcome is expected early next year.