First of all we here at SOVA want to say “Happy Halloween!”, and we hope everyone has a safe and fun weekend.
Unfortunately with each year comes stigmatizing and hurtful costumes. Mental illness is not a Halloween costume, in fact with 18% of the population suffering from anxiety, and 17% from depression it is a common experience and hardly something that should be portrayed as “scary”, especially since evidence has shown those with mental illness are no more violent than those without mental illness.
At SOVA we want to reduce the stigma that adolescents facing mental illness encounter in order to receive treatment they need. Can you imagine what it must be like for an adolescent to see their friends dressed up as “Gone Mental”, for example? Adolescents need to see positive examples of experiences and treatment with mental illness and the earlier they seek treatment the better their outcomes are likely to be. Attitudes and stigma saying that these kind of costumes are acceptable are what may prevent some teens from getting needed treatment.
I found this guardian article to provide some truthful insight into this frustrating issue. How do they suggest you create a accurate mental illness costume for Halloween?:
To dress like someone with serious depression, just wear your normal clothes. But you should take several hours to put them on due to a chronic low mood and almost complete lack of motivation. It may be hard to replicate this sensation if you don’t actually have depression, so try wearing a rucksack filled with anvils and bowling balls to get a sense of the effort required to do the most basic task.
To dress like someone with serious anxiety, just wear your normal clothes. But you should be fearful of how people will react to your clothes, for no discernible reason.You should be constantly afraid and on edge, for no discernible reason. Occasionally, you should be so overwhelmed by inexplicable fear that it becomes incapacitating. You may try to offset this unreasonable fear by feeling compelled to perform constant repetitive actions which feel as though they help despite there being no real logical justification for this. You shouldn’t stop thinking about them though.
Most importantly the article concludes:
You may think that the “costumes” described here don’t sound at all enjoyable, making it seem like serious mental illness is no fun at all.
Yes. Funny how that works.
If possible, please speak up this Halloween season if you see anyone wearing an offensive costume.
If you are interested in reaching out to companies selling these costumes, Mental Health America has some great information on who to contact.