Does Halloween Perpetuate Stereotypes of Mental Illness?

Lynne Taetzsch Health Guide
  • Halloween was always one of my favorite holidays when I was a kid in the fifties. First, I loved dressing like a hobo, which basically meant wearing very comfortable old torn dungarees, and one of my older brothers’ discarded shirts. I’d be happy in those clothes any day.

    But the big draw about Halloween was that you were responsible for how much loot you brought in, unlike birthdays and Christmas, where you passively accepted whatever was given to you. If you worked hard on Halloween, and my friends and I did, then you could end up with one or two full shopping bags of candy. We would fill the first bag and then stop home to drop it off and get another one. I always started the night as early and ended as late as I was allowed to.
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    With all the fears today of razor blades in apples and poisoned candy, sex-offender abductions and the like, Halloween is no longer the same holiday. Children will be escorted to homes in safe neighborhoods, or encouraged to go to a party or public celebration instead.

    But for those of us with a mental illness, Halloween is still a time of year when people will make fun of our affliction. Featuring horrifying insane asylum themes and psycho killers in straitjackets, such holiday antics perpetuate old stereotypes of mental illness.

    The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has been trying to get such negative images removed from Halloween celebrations, and some organizations have been cooperative. But others see it as “political correctness” which spoils their fun. I don’t think, however, that they would see it as “fun” if cancer patients were their target. I don’t think anyone would stand for that. Except perhaps, Rush Limbaugh, who recently made fun of Michael J. Fox’s Parkinson’s disease.

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Published On: October 31, 2006