An online fancy dress retailer’s range of Halloween costumes, which include outfits called ‘Adult psycho ward’ and ‘adult Skitzo costume’ has been heavily criticised by mental health campaigners.
Joker’s Masquerade’s website has a page within its Halloween costume section entitled ‘Lunatic psycho costumes’. Its website says: “Away from the fictional world of zombies and werewolves, the human character can be terrifying or even more so than any other monster seen at Halloween. Make a change from your standard ghost and devil outfits, which people are just not scared of any more, by choosing a piece from this great collection of psychological horror costumes… Release your crazy side for an unforgettable fright night this Halloween.”
This has echoes of a controversy from last year when supermarket chain Asda withdrew its ‘mental patient’ costume and apologised after an outcry over it.
This has been met with dismay from people in the mental health sector. For instance, on Twitter, Michael Brown - @mentalhealthcop – commented: “Just imagine how a leukaemia costume would go down. #parity”
Paul Jenkins, former chief executive of Rethink Mental Illness and now chief executive at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, tweeted directly to the company, saying “@joke_co_uk your "lunatic and psycho" costumes for Halloween are seriously unfunny. Pl [please] do the decent thing & remove them from sale.”
Meanwhile, Sue Baker, director of mental health anti-stigma campaign Time to Change, said: “Halloween is a great opportunity to enjoy some scary fun. But we’re often made aware of Halloween attractions based around ‘mental patients’ or ‘asylums’, fuelling the deep rooted misconceptions that still surround mental illness.
“Imagine how you'd feel if you, or a member of your family, had just been in a psychiatric hospital and were enjoying a fun day out, only to be faced with this type of 'entertainment'? Or were out shopping and came across a product or costume making light-hearted fun of an illness which you have been struggling with?
“We are finally starting to see attitudes change and there is a shift in the public mood. What these instances highlight is that there is still work to be done in tackling mental health stigma and discrimination and we have written to the company to complain about the costumes on sale. We also encourage people to challenge these outdated stereotypes – that only serve to reinforce negative views of those who experience mental health problems – by complaining directly to the companies concerned to share their views.”
Jokers’ Masquerade has been asked to comment but as yet has not responded.