What does a ‘Mental Patient’ look like ? For Asda it looks like a grotesque figure with a hideous face blood stained clothes brandishing a meat clever. For me my image of a ‘Mental Patient’ is something different and if I want to see what one looks like I just look at my reflection. I had struggled for years and undergone treatment for Depression I had suffered from a mental health problem but I’m not unique in that. As many as 1 in 4 will suffer from a form of mental illness.
So in case you have not heard Asda and Tesco decided that an ideal Halloween costume would be the grotesque figure complete with blooded shirt and meat cleaver. They then decided to label it ‘Mental Patent’ “so what’s wrong with that” some said “its only a harmless bit of fun” some declared. Unfortunately it is not just a harmless bit of fun. Imagery can be very important and what this costume did was reinforce stereotypes and help enforce the stigma that surrounds mental health. We already have people facing discrimination and fear of coming forward, this outfit just feeds the misconceptions and myths around mental health. Now everyone can make mistakes with imagery. I myself have used the “Headclutcher” image in a blog before something I regret as it does not truly represent who people with mental health problems are.
What happened next was an example of people power. As the image from Asda’s website went viral the angry reaction on Twitter forced the Asda to withdraw the outfit. The Supermarket chain apologized and explained they would make a donation to Mind. This showed that people can make a difference and also that people where not prepared to sit back and let this happen.
But this was not the story ended, twitter not only forced Asda to drop the outfit it then had the inspired #Mentalpatient hashtag, turning something positive from the incident. Thousands of people posted pictures of then self’s in their ‘mental patient’ costumes and these pictures consisted of normal people doing normal things. Because that is what a ‘mental patient’ looks like we are all individuals from all walks of life, we need to work together to end the stigma. And like I said at the start if I want to see what a mental patient looks like I just need to look in the mirror.