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Mental Health Advocates Outraged Over 'Psych Ward' Halloween Costume

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A Halloween costume was recently pulled from costume stores in North Carolina after an outcry from local mental health advocates who claimed it perpetuated dangerous mental health stigma.

The costume, a blood-splattered hospital uniform with the words, “Dorothea Dix Psych Ward” written across the front, was being sold at two Halloween Valley locations, according to The News & Observer. The Dorothea Dix Psych Ward, named after mental health advocate Dorothea Dix, was located in Raleigh, North Caroline and closed in 2012.

I have family members that have been to Dorthea Dix, so for me that is like a punch in the gut,” Jack Register, Executive Director of North Carolina’s National Alliance on Mental Illness told ABC Eyewitness News. “We wouldn’t be displaying what breast cancer looks like in a Halloween costume.”

Susan Brightbill, owner of Floretta Imports, the company that owns Halloween Valley, told The News & Observer the company didn’t mean to offend anyone.

It’s Halloween,” she said. “I think people can lighten up a little bit.”

But Nicholle Karim, public policy cordinator at NAMI North Carolina, said while Halloween is a time to dress up and have fun, mental illnesses aren’t something to make light of. The costume implies those with mental illness are violent when in fact they’re more likely to be victims of violence themselves.

“To us, it’s not funny to joke about someone having a chronic illness that impacts every part of their lives. It’s an outrage,” Karim told The Mighty. “We’re thankful it got pullled. It was nice to see the whole community coming together over this issue.”

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Originally published: September 28, 2015
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