candy, costumes, creepy, crime, criminals, Halloween, Hollywood, hospitals, lobmotomies, mental health, mentally ill, movies, psych wards, psychiatric facilities, severe mental illness, sterotypes, stigma
I love October it is the first month after summer where days start to get cooler, nights longer and there are all of those great flavors like pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, and maple. As a kid, October held one of my favorite days at the end of the month, Halloween. But that was long before I had the diagnosis of schizophrenia.
Now Halloween marks the most stigmatizing and stereotyping day of the year for people with a severe mental illness. There are straightjacket costumes, the horror films, the haunted asylums, and many other cultural favorites that make it look like those of us with a mental illness are terrifying, monstrous, and the places we go for treatment are houses of horror.
People have become more and more aware of how costumes, mascots, names, etc. are offensive to certain groups over the years. Look at the campaigns to get the Red Skins to change their name, and the pushback on Hollywood to hire transgender actors to play transgender roles as well as Asian actors and other POC to play roles intended for them. All good, every bit of it.
Many groups have experienced a tide of change about their identities, but that wave has not included severe mental illness. There has been a great deal of public acceptance of anxiety and depression, those two disorders have made it into the mainstream in ways schizophrenia has not. I have seen little shift in public awareness or acceptance of schizophrenia, especially in October.
There is hope, though with movies like Netflix’s Maniac, where the main character has schizophrenia and displays many symptoms, but isn’t a monster, a criminal, or even unlikeable. That is a huge change from the stereotypes on many crime shows that write in the killer as someone with schizophrenia.
The history of psychiatric facilities as places that tortured patients with treatments like lobotomies, ice baths, insulin shock therapy, and other stuff of nightmares, almost cements psychiatric facilities with a role on Halloween. The boarded up closed up, and long unused asylums that dot our countryside don’t help as many people and television shows report tales of ghosts and other haunting stories.
I don’t hate Halloween, though. On the bright side, at least it is a night that involves candy, and who doesn’t want to celebrate pillowcases, and plastic pumpkins packed full of sugary treats, especially candy bars that are full-size.