On Human Decency

Photo by Steven Depolo. Creative License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode Link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendepolo/4630736058

The other day I was browsing through mental health blogs and reading posts when I saw something that made me stop in my tracks. It was this article.  The article is about a woman’s fight to stop the sale of a rather offensive “mental patient” costume.

At first I didn’t know what to think. Thoughts came and went, I wondered who in the hell would buy a costume of a “mental patient”, a costume so offensive and cruel. What exactly is funny or cute about mental illness? Then it hit me, hard. People actually bought these costumes, this is many people’s view of mentally ill people.

As someone with prodromal schizophrenia, I am acutely aware of the enormous stigma that surrounds mental illness, especially more severe illnesses. Still, the fact that someone would make such an offensive costume, and that people would buy it, shocked me.

After the initial surprise, I began to think back over the course of my own illness. I thought of the hours I spent in a trance, unable to move or think. I thought of the voices, screaming at me and frightening me. I thought of the first time I was able to talk to them, and how much it scared me. I thought of the struggle I went through in University, unable to add two numbers or read a book. I thought of the immense pain I went through during that time, the near constant thoughts of suicide, the painful wait for my medications to kick in. I thought of how close I was to being in a mental hospital. Or dead.

Is this what the costumes are making fun of? Is the suffering of millions amusing? Surely, if they knew the suffering that comes with mental illness, this costume would be history. But they don’t know, to them mental illness is either a joke or a headline, and so the costume stays.

I titled this post On Human Decency, and I did so for a reason. Human decency is something every marginalized group strives for, to be treated as equal, to be seen as human. Not to be mocked, not to be a joke, not to be feared, that is not human decency, that is cruelty. Within this very century, beatings, restraints, and other cruel methods were commonplace in mental hospitals. While we are past that now, we have a new form of cruelty to deal with, and that comes from stigma.

Stigma, the great divider which keeps those with mental illness separated from society. A glass wall, nay, a one-way mirror. For we see society, yet society does not see us, not as who we truly are. No, society does not see us, society sees  a costume.

Stigma can be defeated, but doing so will require a movement beyond the scope of what has been done before. But for now, we must stick with small steps. Getting the stores currently carrying this outrageous costume to drop it is one of them.

I encourage you all to do what you can, call, leave reviews, email, even snail mail, do anything you can to get these horrendous costumes off shelves. All the info you need to help this cause can be found hereIf you’re a blogger, feel free to reblog this post or write your own.  Make sure to tell your friends. Stopping the sale of this costume won’t end stigma, but it’s one small step towards an unimaginable goal.


22 thoughts on “On Human Decency

  1. Thank you for sharing your viewpoint. It really helps to know someone’s side of the story in order to become a better person. Hopefully one day everyone will understand that their actions have consequences.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am so sorry you have had to struggle so. I agree with your feelings about stigma. I grew up with severe asthma and used to hold my breath in class so no one would hear me wheeze. It’s only been the last year or two where I’d use my inhaler in public or in front of anyone. In 5th grade, my entire class had a club against me and no one talked to me for the whole year because I was smart. Neither my parents, the teacher or principal did anything about it in spite of my daily tears and pleas. So I understand how painful stigma can be.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on Marie Abanga's Blog and commented:
    Those who stigmatize the mentally ill, are themselves mentally challenged or outright illiterate. I don’t know any other way to put it. If in 2015, costumes are still made and sold depicting mental illness as a comedy or whatever, it is simply sad. Will they make one for cancer, diabetes etc? Pathetic our world indeed !!!


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