I Found Mentall Illness Costumes Funny... Until I Was the One in the Hospital Gown


There was a time I thought a costume of a person with a mental illness was funny, perhaps even scary. This was long before I really understood my diagnoses.

I was a teenager, and I thought everything was funny. Serious was not in my vocabulary. I laughed at costumes that incorporated strait jackets. One year, I even went as a “homicidal maniac.” I found it humorous if someone wore a hospital gowns with bloody marks all over and pretended they heard voices.

Then the day came when I was one of those in the hospital gown. But instead of it being a “hilarious” costume, it was a definite reality. I was no longer the laughing teenager. I was now the mentally ill person.

I have always loved Halloween.

For a depressive, masking my real identity was a dream come true. It was the one day a year it was OK to not be myself. I could turn into anyone I wanted: a witch, a bunny, a celebrity. It was the one day a year where my spirits lifted and hiding behind a fake smile was fine. Of course, there was the candy.

This Halloween I am torn. I still enjoy the spirit of the day and watching my daughter go from house to house in costume. But I then see the “mentally ill” costumes. This year one in particular disturbed me. It was sold on Walmart.com and called “razor
blade suicide scar wound latex costume make up.” Because of the outrage it caused, it has been removed for sale, but the damage has still been done. To actually put the word “suicide” in a Halloween costume perplexed me to no end. Why couldn’t it have just been labeled a bloody wound? I mean, I don’t see a bald head costume labeled “cancer patient” in stores.

It hurt me for two reason: the first, I am a mentally ill person and the second, I have been suicidal before. To actually reach a point where the only “resolution” you have is to rid yourself from the earth is scary. I sat with this topic for awhile and asked myself the following question: “Why would anyone want to dress up as a suicidal person?”

Many answers came forth to me, and none of them good. First, for some strange reason, people think it is cool. Nope, sorry, suicide is not cool. It is serious. The second, mentally ill people are seen as scary. Really, you wouldn’t even recognize most of us. The third, “it’s funny.” The people who might tell me, “it’s just a joke, it’s Halloween, stop being so serious,” have probably never been mentally ill or suicidal.  Both are extremely serious topics.

All of it comes back to stigma. While I thought we were making great strides in eradicating the stigma associated with mental illness, it takes one fun holiday to make me realize, maybe we haven’t. Costumes depicting “insane” people should not be sold next to Darth Vader, Minions or Princesses. They shouldn’t even be on the shelves at all. It makes me worry for my daughter’s future. While she has witnessed my mental illness and knows I live a mostly typical life and that I am not scary, there are other children out there who aren’t being taught the same, that people with mental illnesses are relatively typical like the rest of the population. It’s time to make Halloween jovial and fun again!

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. 

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Stock photo by dgmata


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


Related to Mental Health

a bird flying through the sky

Figuring Out 'Regular' Sadness After Starting Medication for a Mental Illness

I started medication about a month and a half ago. It’s going great. For the first time in a long time, I’m happy. Really and truly happy. I walk through the halls of my work, my body humming with excitement for teaching my students. I look at their little faces with wonder. Thinking about the [...]
broken vase on the ground

How My Partner Taught Our Daughter That Broken Is Beautiful

Yesterday, my partner helped me teach my daughter a lesson about life in a way she did not expect. In our bedroom, there is a statue of a stag that sits on the dresser. Yesterday, it fell and broke. While I sat at our table gluing the stag back together, my daughter commented that she [...]
composition of a girl

That Time I Was Going to Lie to My Therapist and Then Fortunately Didn't

“OK, so, I was totally going to lie to you because I was afraid you’d get mad, but I’m not. I’m going to tell you the truth.” Months ago, that was what I said when I walked into my therapist’s office. You might think of all people to be honest with, you’d be straight up [...]
woman dressed as a cat

Mental Illness Is Not a Costume

I dig fashion. My motto has always been, “Dress to express, not impress.” I have many outfits I wear that express who I am on the outside as well as the inside. Some I choose and some I don’t. Most of these choices are thanks to Target and my husband’s credit card! Some are courtesy of [...]