Stigma Is Scary: 5 Ways to Avoid Disrespecting Anybody Living with Mental Illness

There's not much scarier than feeling unheard, alone and devalued. This Halloween let’s unwrap more than mini-Twix bars and strip away the stigma surrounding mental illness.

Here are 5 ways to avoid disrespecting anybody living with mental illness this Halloween:

1. Be sensitive about your costume choice.

The “Anna Rexia” costume that sparked rightful controversy in 2011 is back on the market with some online costume retailers. This distasteful costume turns a serious mental illness like anorexia nervosa into a punchline and it is not the only costume to do so. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association anorexia nervosa affects between 0.5% and 4% of women in Canada and this is not something to celebrate.

2. Respect other’s choices in social situations.

It is very common for individuals with anxiety to feel extra “on edge” at social gatherings. Sometimes the act of going to a Halloween party is a brave choice. Therefore, let’s respect our friends who may want to duck out early or not party to the extreme, and if a friend wants to stay in and celebrate in their PJs that is totally cool too.

3. Spooky themes are okay, negative ones are not.

The “scary insane asylum” trope is not spooky, it is dangerous. In the Halloween episode of Modern Family, called “AwesomeLand” the Dunphy’s turn their home into a “scary insane asylum” to spook the neighbours. Having Alex strapped into a hospital bed and Luke in a straightjacket, reinforce negative stereotypes and delegitimize the pain that 1 in 5 people in Canada can relate to. 

4. Be conscious of your words.

We often hear people lightly using phrases like “I’m so OCD” or “I’m feeling schizo” in ways that are harmful and offensive to individuals truly struggling with a diagnosis. Especially around holiday time where we tend to let our guard down, let’s be extra aware of the language we use.

5. Less tricks. More treats.

Not everyone likes to be scared whether they have a mental health diagnosis or not, but everyone can use a little positive affirmation. Send some positive energy to your friends this Halloween— compliment their costume, invite someone you don’t know well to your party or maybe even share your candy. Finally, have a safe, festive and stigma-free Halloween!




post submitted  by Community Writer, Naomi Matlow

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