Gone too Far? Or Is It Just Fiction For HORROR HALLOWEEN?

Have we not gone a bit too far today with the “outrage” against Asda and Tesco, with their Fancy Dress costumes?

Have we not lost perspective somewhat?This is a HALLOWEEN costume.

Every year we dress up in gore, blood, gruesome, horrific characters in the name of Halloween. I think we’ve gone a bit too far trying to ban any costume that includes the word psycho, mental or patient. This is HALLOWEEN!  Does censoring Halloween take things a little too far? This costume is based on a fictional character that you might find in a ghost/horror movie in an old Victorian Asylum – NOT reality. I don’t think we’re giving the general public enough credit to know that this is NOT what a person who suffers from a mental health condition actually looks like. It’s fiction. People know it’s based on horror movies, just like the Tesco version is based on a character out of a movie.  Hannibal Lector costumes – based on a film.  The  “mad Scientist” costumes are not a true representation of a scientist. The gruesome doctors don’t represent our National Health Service.  0039017025

Are we going to start banning Freddy Krueger? I can’t imagine he “represents” many burns victims any more than this costume represents people with mental health conditions.
Are we not ADDING to the stigma by our reaction to this? Not allowing fictional movie costumes for fear of offending is no better than removing the Golly-Wog doll from the jam jars.
I HAVE a mental health condition.  My journey has not been easy BUT it has made me the person I am today.  I have talked about it openly for many many years. I organised a large event in Chelmsford, Essex called “Make it Mental” in 2010, and before that there was nothing organised to celebrate World Mental Health Day in our local town. Now the NHS Mental Health Trust run something every year.
I rang in to the Dave Monk Show on BBC Essex this morning to put my point of view across; to highlight that I don’t think anyone would see this costume and think – Ah ALL people with Mental Health Conditions look like this. I think we’ve come a long way since those days. He thought it was quite a “funny costume” but that it was the name of it that was wrong. It would be no different had it been called AXE MURDER. Dave Monk pointed out to me that people are killing themselves because of the stigma of their conditions. That’s not due to this costume Or ANY of these costumes.

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That’s because we are not given enough information, starting in schools, that help us understand our mental health. That give us positive ways to look after it. We don’t have mind gyms in schools; but we do have Physical Education. People commit suicide mostly, (although not in all circumstances) because of a chemical imbalance in their brain and medical treatment that isn’t fit for purpose.   I waited 18 months for a talking treatment 11 years ago. I was given anti-depressants though – even though they could’ve made me manic. One of the most harmful side affects of anti-depressant is…suicidal tendencies!

I find people talking out on behalf of those of us who have severe mental health conditions because “they can’t stand up for themselves” does far more to enhance stereotypes of mental ill-health. There are hundreds, thousands of people living with mental health conditions every single day – and have perfectly “normal” lives. I’ve heard that been said so many times today. It isn’t necessarily stigma that stops people “coming out” about it either. Some may just not see it is anyone’s business. Just like I don’t tend to tell people I have Asthma. Or announce to the world that I had crabs when I was a teenager. Or that I maybe had food poisoning when I was in my twenties. Do we not make it more of a big deal by demanding people “come clean” about whether they have suffered from depression? Not EVERYONE who has had that experience will want to relive it. Not everyone wants to stay in that place and have found a way to move on, which is no mean feat!
I worked for a mental health organisation for 3 years and was in PR and Communication. Luckily it was a “service user” involvement network so having my particular label was relevant. I did talk about it. I organised awareness events; we had forums, campaigns, and while I still think those things are essential, I do think that we need a more balanced perspective of stigma. Moulding Futures, the organisation I set up when the company I worked for closed, initially carried on the work I’d started. What I found though was the more I focused on my own mental health condition, the more I talked about it, the more I retold my story, the more likely I was to prevent myself from moving on. Hearing others stories, and problems with the system surrounded myself in a negative environment.
When I was on the radio this morning someone called in and mentioned me and how lucky I was that I was so strong. That I was able to stay positive BUT that there were still so many who were not that strong and needed support. I haven’t always been this strong, or positive. Years ago I was homeless, then acrophonic and have been through a series of events that have created this strong woman I am today. I had support – that I sought out myself due to a failed system – from MIND, HomeStart, Families In Focus and I also had therapy. I waited – far too long for both CBT and Group therapy but I did get there in the end and I worked hard on myself. My understanding of me and how I work. I continue to work on myself, finding ways to stay positive, to find alternatives to the debilitating medication. I support any organisation that supports people and helps them to find something that makes them stronger, and gets them through the other side or finds ways to help them to manage the condition.
Moulding Futures went from mental Health Awareness events to creating the Share a Smile Campaign to raise awareness of the benefits of smiling and connecting with people every day, even just a “Hello”.  Even smiling to yourself when you don’t even feel like it has chemical benefits in your brain. This led on to the Giggle Together project after I trained as a Laughter Yoga facilitator and the huge benefits this has to everyone. Creativity, play, laughter, self- therapy. The more I focused things onto positive solutions, the less bouts of depression I had. Bipolar II is usually more depression than highs, but I started to feel so much better just by focusing on laughter, creativity, gratitude and surrounding myself with other people who were positive.I’m even training to be an NLP Coach.

I’m not always strong. I’m not always positive – I still have a condition after all. But I smile, laugh and have great pleasure in helping others to do the same. I help others find their own spinach! I even started stand up comedy! This gave me bounds of confidence and that has now led me into Performance Poetry. Filling my spare time with creativity through art, poetry and helping others, but my main job is caring for my son who has Autism.

Our problem isn’t fictional, over exaggerated Halloween Costumes – it’s that we pigeon-hole people into “normal” and “not normal”. That people are not seen as individuals – more of their label and the generalisation of that label. But that is JUST an image. If you don’t buy into it then don’t. Employers need to change their attitude to Mental Health and see people as individuals and can tap into someone’s talents but they need to be flexible.  SOME people are survivors of mental ill-health, SOME people don’t feel the need to talk about it – anymore than the time they broke their leg. Those that want to, do. More and more people DO talk about it, which is great, But not everyone should feel pressured into doing so, and that if they don’t they are hiding it. It’s a choice. And If someone were to call me a nutter – I’d probably agree, laugh and see the funny side because people who know me call me that. It’s endearing.  I am “quirky”. I’m UNIQUE. An extrovert, and I make things happen because of it. And I really LOVE who I am, finally at this stage in my life. But I LOVE me because I think my experiences have made me who I am today – that I was always meant to go along THIS road. I happen to have a mental health condition – or even just a hormonal imbalance. That’s not ALL of who I am though.
I’ve seen so many people who DO have mental health conditions, some who have been sectioned, comment that this whole thing has done nothing more than make them laugh, and laughter is great!  Americans are so much more positive than us. They tend not to take themselves too seriously and I think we could learn a lot from them. No doubt the sales of straight Jacketed costumes will rocket to the sky this Halloween. Ironically, no doubt, worn by some of the people who have a mental health condition who find the whole thing ridiculous. Laugh more, smile more, play more. Try not to worry about what others think – the only person you need to impress is yourself. And we need to change MENTAL EDUCATION to give the next generation a fighting chance.
One in FOUR people will be affected by a mental health condition – and I’ve never seen anyone looking like that costume wandering around.  It’s NOT reality – It’s extreme – just as Halloween has always been; tapping into people’s fears on one night of the year. I wonder where it leaves us now with other costumes? Where will it leave Halloween? Risk assessments? Trigger warnings? No blood, no spiders for those with a phobia? It’s supposed to be a bit of FUN! People getting stressed about this probably caused more harm than laughing about the far fetched nature of it all. This costume wasn’t in the shops to mock people with mental ill-health – just for laughs. It’s a horrific costume for Halloween and there is a HUGE difference.

My Nan turns 100 next month and the most valuable thing that she taught me, and probably why she is still here today, was don’t take life too seriously; if you have laughter and love then everything else falls into place.