Atlanta Center for Medical Research

Mental Health Stigma During the Halloween Season

Atlanta Center for Medical Research Resource Blog

Halloween time is meant to be spooky and fun, filled with haunting attractions and scary movies to watch that make you afraid of the dark. But what isn’t fun or spooky is how many Halloween traditions negatively paint mental illness, adding to the stigma that already influences a lot of our day-to-day.

From popular Halloween costumes like straitjackets to numerous haunted attractions decorating like abandoned mental health hospital, Halloween can be a very difficult time for those who live with mental health issues.

In this blog, we’re breaking down some of the biggest mental health stigmas that Halloween promotes and why it’s best to avoid them.

Popular Halloween Movies / Storylines

There are plenty of examples of popular Halloween films that negatively use mental illness as a plot point. In fact, Halloween, a popular scary movie to watch during the season, features a villain who is suffering from a mental health issue that terrorizes those around him. Or, The Shining, a movie whose main character deals with a mental breakdown and attacks his family.

There are countless other examples we could name, like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Psycho. This point is that there are multiple Halloween movies with messages that state those with mental health issues are violent and can’t be trusted. While the Atlanta Center for Medical Research knows this isn’t always true, those who don’t daily experience mental health issues or don’t know much about them may lean into this narrative.

If you have loved ones that you’re planning a Halloween movie night with, consider picking movies that don’t carelessly play with mental health issues. Encourage those around you to do the same.

Popular Halloween Attractions

Similar to the movies described above, there are also all kinds of Halloween attractions that play on the mentally ill. If you’ve even partaken in a haunted house, then you know how likely it is for one to use a mental facility as their setting or to have someone walking around dressed as a patient trying to scare people. In addition, many historic mental health facilities are marketed as haunted. Some buildings even open their doors for guests to hunt for ghosts.

What’s important is not to capitalize on the horror that many early mental health patients experienced but to respect the history of the building, the people who lived there, and to continue to work to improve the well-being of the mentally ill for the future.

Popular Halloween Costumes

There are multiple types of negative mental health Halloween costumes sold every year. The most common is a straitjacket outfit that even comes with a mask to cover the mouth. Some designs are even made for kids. There have even been worse options, like costumes designed for women that are a play on eating disorders.

This year when you’re planning costumes for you or your loved ones don’t pick any of those options. It can be harmful to those who do have mental health issues to see costumes like this around on Halloween. It also helps to reinforce the stereotype that all mentally ill people deserve to be treated and dressed in that manner.

If you are struggling with mental health issues, the Atlanta Center for Medical Research is the national leader in research studies since 1982. We offer multiple studies for those with mental health problems, ranging from depression, bipolar, PTSD, schizophrenia, and more. Click here to contact us to learn more about how to can participate in these studies or call us at 404-214-0820.

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