Halloween costumes offend mental health advocates

Halloween costumes may offend people with mental illness (WDTN Photo)

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Some major retailers have pulled Halloween costumes after some people found them offensive.

This week, Walmart pulled ‘suicide scars’ after mental health advocates voiced concerns.

Local psychiatrists want to remind trick-or-treaters and parents to be sensitive to what others may be experiencing.

Dr. Neal Dunsieth says mental illness is a health condition, not Halloween entertainment.

“The industry has a lot of these costumes out there. Bloody nurse or straight-jacket costumes,” said Dunsieth, chief clinical officer with the Montgomery County Alcohol Drug and Mental Health Services board.

The ‘psych ward’ themed costumes are at almost every Halloween store and can be found in bulk online. Dunsieth says the costumes can trigger people with mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder to act out or hurt their feelings.

“Some of the costumes really stigmatize mental illness,” he said.

Dunsieth believes terms like ‘nuts’, ‘psycho’ and ‘crazy’ are used too loosely in society.

“They’re are hurtful words. They are charged enough that when a person with mental issues hears them, it really does have an effect.”

When it comes to choosing a Halloween costume, Dunsieth says if you can’t talk your kid out of a ‘psych ward’ outfit talk to them about it.

“At least make it a conversation. Make them think about what they are doing and what they are representing,” he said.

Tips on how to talk to your kids about mental illness:

  • Cover the basics. It’s often helpful to start with simple facts about mental illnesses and dispel some of the common myths surrounding them.
  • Keep the child’s age and maturity level in mind.
  • Make sure your kids feel safe and secure.

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