Spooky, Scary, Stigma?

By: Meghan Foster ’20

Halloween is such a festive time of year. The changing of the leaves, a comeback of the leggings and booties look, pumpkin spice everything, and a chance to be whoever you want for one night! There is something so fun about dressing up as someone you are not, and doing it alongside your friends. A night looked forward to by so many people, and a night that should be enjoyed by everyone,however, there is a great stigma surrounding Halloween in regard to individuals with mental illness. 

Imagine a dark, ominous night. Walking home alone under the glow of the full moon is a young girl. Already on edge, she hears the crackling of a twig and a rustle of leaves, and frantically picks up the pace. Seemingly from thin air a man with a mask begins to attack. The papers the next morning warn of a psychopath on the loose. Classics and new block buster’s alike tend to feed off the idea of a psychopathic killer and turn them into the boogie man of the night. Take the Halloween series,for example. Michael Myers is institutionalized, and in the latest movie, there is an eerie scene depicting  a facility and those who are detained in it. The movie casts the patients as dangerous, crazy, and a threat to society. Embellishing characteristics of individuals who may suffer from an array of personality disorder and stigmatizing them into dangerous individuals. When the reality is, the majority of those with mental illnesses are harmless to the general public. 

Costumes are such an essential part of Halloween, but, when done distastefully can act as a catalyst for furthering the stigma around mental illnesses. In 2015, the costume titled “Anna Rexia” made a big impact in the media. The costume was a tight black dress with a skeleton on the front, stigmatizing individuals who suffer from anorexia. Anorexia currently has the highest mortality rate out of any mental illnesses. That is, more people die from it than any other mental illness. To glamorize this illness is to subject impressionable, often times young teenagers, into believing that this is what they should look like or be striving for. Many who have suffered from different  types of eating disorders spoke out against this costume, posting raw and eye-opening pictures of themselves in hospital beds, talking about how this mental illness was killing them. Those in recovery spoke about what this illness has cost them: friends, family, fertility, time. 

While the majority of Halloween is spooky-filled fun, it is important to remind ourselves of the responsibility we each have in ending the stigma surrounding mental illness. Stigmatizing these very real and serious illnesses can deter people from seeking the professional help they need. It can also act as a trigger to those suffering with the illnesses being depicted in costumes or movies. Everyone deserves to have a very Happy Halloween.

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