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Plea to stamp out Halloween mental health stigma

LOCAL mental health service provider 5 Boroughs Partnership NHS Foundation Trust is calling on people to think about how their Halloween fun could cause others distress.

Simon Barber, Chief Executive at 5 Boroughs Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Unfortunately, Halloween seems to be a time of year when people think it’s ok to trivialise mental ill health. It is not. It’s totally unacceptable to make fun of people who are suffering, sometimes with serious conditions.

“Halloween paraphernalia depicting mental health as something to be feared and which uses derogatory terms like ‘psycho’ and ‘asylum’ is widely available. This contributes to and enhances the existing stigma attached to psychosis and other misunderstood conditions by playing on peoples' fears which come through a lack of knowledge and understanding.

“This stigma can impact on a person’s recovery and can prevent vulnerable people seeking help in the first place.

“Mental health conditions affect one in four of us and deserve the same respect and dignity as physical health conditions. I would urge people to think carefully about how something they may see as ‘just a bit of fun’ could cause distress to someone who may be struggling with a mental illness.”

Charlotte Churton works as a healthcare assistant on an inpatient mental health ward at 5 Boroughs Partnership. She is also a service user, suffering from bipolar, and has recently experienced this type of stigma.

She said: “I want to ask people to look beyond our illness. We’re people too and words hurt. Please think about what you say and your actions. We go through enough without having to deal with the stigma of mental health as well.

“People with mental health conditions are no different to anyone else. We work, we get married, we make friends, we contribute so much to the world, but sometimes the world doesn’t seem to accept us. The words used to describe us don’t help. When people meet me they never use the word ‘psycho’ to describe me, they say I’m a breath of fresh air, that I see the good in everyone and that I am positive person to be around. Please stop the hurtful words you use to describe us, it’s truly heartbreaking.”

The Trust’s campaign to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health is supported by Leigh MP Andy Burnham.

Andy Burnham said: “We are making progress as a society in tackling the stigma around mental health but Halloween always reminds us how far we have to go. We wouldn't dream of poking fun at cancer patients and exactly the same principle should apply to mental health.

“I would ask all local shops and pubs to think carefully about their displays and the products they have on sale. In today's stressful and insecure society, mental ill-health could affect any family at any time. We need to support people, not stigmatise them.”

Simon added: “Charlotte is one of many who are affected by this offensive and insensitive behaviour and I respect her bravery in speaking out about her own experience to help raise awareness.”

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