People Affected by Mental Illness Have Joined the #NotaCostume Movement


While checking her email on the way to work one morning, Kate Kryder saw an image she says put a pit in her stomach. It was the “Dorothea Dix Psych Ward” Halloween costume, a controversial item being sold in two costumes stores in North Carolina. The blood-splattered hospital uniform was eventually removed from stores after an outcry from local advocates.

I had to do a double take, I couldn’t believe it,” she said in a blog post. “As my shock continued, I began to realize how intentional this company had to have been to research a local psychiatric hospital and then mass produce these costumes.”

Kryder is a board member of Chapel Hill’s National Alliance for Mental Illness chapter and the Co-Curricular Leadership Program Coordinator at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. For her the issue was both personal — she has general anxiety disorder and her partner has schizoaffective disorder — and professional. She’s passionate about normalizing mental illness for her students, considering 75 percent of lifetime cases of mental health conditions begin by age 24.

So, she snapped portraits of volunteer students and staff at UNC Chapel Hill, holding up signs that explain why mental health is not a costume.

mental health advocate with text 'mental illness is not a costume' “I wanted to give voice to the people who remain silent in fear of losing their job, for the people who are afraid to tell their family, who are timid about seeing a therapist or psychiatrist and for the people who society has alienated with the stigma and discrimination of mental illness. These people are your educators, your baristas, your friends, your bus drivers and the person you least suspect,” she wrote.

The hashtag #notacostume is not Kryder’s creation, and typically has been used to call out cultural appropriation in Halloween costumes. But Kryder hopes this movement will become just as powerful in the mental health community.

“My partner has said, ‘Living with the stigma is sometimes harder than living with the illness.’ That’s heartbreaking,” she told The Mighty.

mental health advocate holding a sign that says 'my partner is NOT your costume'

She hopes to take more pictures to show the vast number of people who are affected when those with mental illness are portrayed as violent.

“I hope that people will think twice before they put on a costume,” Kryder told The Mighty. “That’s someone’s brother. That’s someone’s partner. This is a personal issue to a lot of people. Even if you don’t think you know someone, you probably do.”

Here are more picture’s from Kryder’s #notacostume campaign:

mental health advocates hold sign saying 'our mental health is NOT a costume'

mental health advocate holds sign saying 'my friends are not your costume'

mental health advocate holds sign saying 'my parents' clients are not your costumes'

mental health advocates hold sign saying 'our mental health is not your costume'

mental health advocate holds sign saying 'I'm not your costume, but I'm happy to help you think of a more appropriate and creative idea!'

mental health advocate holds sign saying 'my cousin is not your costume'

mental health advocate holds sign saying 'my little brother is not your costume'

mental health advocate holds sign saying 'my mental health is not your costume'

mental health advocate holds sign saying 'my mental health is not your costume'

mental health advocate holds sign saying 'the people in my community are not your costume'

mental health advocate holds sign saying 'my loved ones are not your costume'

You can join the movement by using #notacostume, or tweet your picture to Kryder @gratefulyoga.

 Related: Why People Are Trying to Stop a Ghose Hunt in an Abondoned Insane Asylum


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Mental Health

If You Have Thoughts About Suicide Like I Do, Please Read This

I consider suicide. I write that in the present tense because it’s the reality of my existence. I consider ending my own life. It’s not an everyday occurrence, but the frequency can be startling. Most of the time the moment is fleeting, like being in your late 30s and thinking about going to a rave. [...]

16 Ways Life Would Change in a World Without Mental Illness Stigma

Mental illness stigma manifests in many different ways for the 1 in 5 people who live with a mental health condition. Some keep what they’re going through to themselves while others struggle to convince others they need help. But how would your life change in a world free of mental health stigma? This is the question [...]

John Oliver Nails the Real Problem With Discussing Mental Health and Shootings

Often in the aftermath of a mass shooting, like the tragedy at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College last Thursday, politicians and the media speculate why, sometimes focusing on the mental health of the shooter. Or, as John Oliver put it on Sunday night’s episode of “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” “There’s nothing like a mass shooting to suddenly spark political interest [...]

5 Ways to Show Support When a Friend’s Loved One Attempts Suicide

A friend just told you his or her loved one attempted suicide. How does one react to this information? First and foremore, be there. Be there for the person who just told you this information, and be fully present with them. Because for every person who’s struggling with mental illness, there are loved ones who [...]