timetochangeSupermarket chain Asda has withdrawn a Halloween ‘mental patient fancy dress costume’ it was selling called and apologised after receiving criticism for it.

The £20 costume, which had only been available online for two days, included clothing, mask, fake blood and a meat cleaver. 

But the item sparked widespread criticism. For instance, Katie Dalton, of Welsh mental health charity Gofal, wrote on Twitter: "Dear @asda, how on earth did you come to the conclusion that this is an appropriate fancy dress costume? Disgraceful."

The costume was withdrawn from sale on Wednesday morning after being spotted internally, according to the BBC. Asda said the product had been removed from the website in the afternoon but the relevant page remained visible for a few hours. It has now been taken down.

On Twitter, Asda said: “We're deeply sorry one of our fancy dress costumes has upset people. This was an unacceptable error - the product was withdrawn immediately.”

The chain, which is own by US retail giant Walmart, added that it offered its “sincere apologies for the offence it's caused” and said it would be making a sizeable donation to mental health charity Mind.

Extremely misguided

Sue Baker, director of Time to Change, England's biggest anti-stigma campaign, run by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, added to the criticism, but praised the chain for its quick action in taking it off sale: “Asda have shown themselves to be extremely misguided with their ‘mental health patient’ fancy dress costume. It is staggeringly offensive to the one in four of us affected by mental health problems and our families and friends, and troubling that some businesses are still so out of touch with the public mood.

“However, it is encouraging to see the groundswell of outcry on Twitter and that our voices are being heard.  We hope this will urge Asda as well as other retailers and manufacturers to review their processes and consider taste and decency on mental health grounds, to avoid fuelling stigma and discrimination that are so damaging for large numbers of the population."