Question: If you shout “Are you deaf?” at your child should you go round to apologise to your hard of hearing Granda?
Question: On a night out if you say someone is “Legless” should you apologise to the next leg amputee you meet?
Question: If I say an idea is “mental” should I say sorry to myself because I suffer from depression?
If you said yes to any of those then stop reading now as your little brain won’t handle the rest of this blog.
When Tesco and Asda apologised for their fancy dress costumes of “Mental Patient” and “Psycho Ward Patient” a part of me died – to be fair there’s plenty of me so I should be okay. You do wonder who decided that they should be called this in the first place but I won’t take offence at the names or the costumes because I am an educated human being who can tell the difference between a costume for a Celtic Pagan festival and “real life”. If I ever struggle with those two feel free to dress me in either costume and cart me off.
Those who are offended by it have a point and worry about the stigma that surrounds mental illness. Too often people worry that the depressed or bi-polar or schizophrenic neighbour is going to break down their door shouting “Here’s Johnny” whilst wearing a white mask and brandishing a knife. Obviously the neighbour is not very intelligent and I assume doesn’t have access to scissors or sharp objects in general. We are more aware than ever of mental illness – it’s almost a fashion accessory for the rich and famous to be “f*cked up” as well as loaded. Very few people aren’t aware what mental illness actually means – the issue is still that people feel afraid to talk about their own issues with mental illness and this is almost a reaction to that.
If it’s not spoken about or mentioned then it’s not happening. This seems to be the reaction of many in society; that they don’t need to know – they’re wrong of course we need to feel as comfortable saying that we have a mental illness as we do a cold because it’s almost that common, but not as infectious. The costumes are just that – costumes. To worry about a label or dressing up costume is to miss the point. If that turns sensible people into torch and pitchfork wielding vigilantes I’d suggest the problem is theirs and not ours. If we are going to have such knee jerk reactions every time the wrong thing is said we are never going to solve the main issue of opening and demystifying the reality of mental illnesses.
One in eight doctor’s appointments in the UK is to deal with depression or mental health. Let’s stop pretending that it doesn’t exist because we all know it does. Why can same-sex couples, Muslims and atheists all stand up in public and be applauded for their expression of their lifestyles and choices, and why do we still celebrate those living with or having beaten cancer or disabilities or serious illness when we still don’t feel comfortable with someone saying that they are mentally ill. I’m not saying we don’t celebrate and respect the other things but it shouldn’t be one rule for them and another for the depressed, suicidal, anxious and bi-polar. It’s not something you can catch, so don’t fear it.
If it’s put up in a supermarket to celebrate Halloween then take it for what it is – a bit of fun. We need to get the perspective right on this one and not make scapegoats out of supermarkets when it’s society as a whole that has a problem.