this halloween beware of the scariest act of all – the act of ignorancE
For many people, Halloween is just a festive night of fun and spooky! If asked about the relation between mental health and Halloween, it wouldn’t come as a surprise that a lot of people would think there isn’t any. Sadly, they could not be more wrong!
Halloween can be an especially daunting time for people with mental health issues such as anxiety. Constant ringing door bell due to trick or treaters, an increased level of social interaction or being scared by strangers on the street can all act as triggers for increased anxiety and panic attacks.
Dr Stuart Sadler, a Chartered Psychologist and Counsellor at Newcastle Psychologist & Counselling said: ” “Halloween can be a lot of fun for people, while for others it can be a time of anxiety. People living by themselves or those that have experienced anxiety or trauma can find it difficult having people come to their door in scary costume threatening ‘trick or treat’.
“Similarly certain costumes can remind people of traumatic experiences, especially when people dress up and role play their character towards a complete stranger.”
Halloween, thus acts as a ground to further the stigmas related to mental health. Haunted houses are portrayed as mental asylums. People choose to dress up as someone with a mental illness, and choose to wear straight-jackets and act ‘crazy’.
These images are taken from the Time to Change Halloween campaign
This is all extremely problematic in multiple ways. It not only causes distress for those who are battling mental illnesses, but it also trivialises their struggle. It further perpetuates stereotypes, and misinforms people as to what mental health issues actually are.
Eleanor Segall, blogger and freelance writer, who wrote for the Metro on this topic last year, said: “I have social anxiety so knocks on the door late at night on Halloween are a bit scary for me due to the theme of the night. But generally I love Halloween – the pumpkins, costumes and seeing friends when able is fun.
“I think its important that those living with psychosis, depression, hearing voices, anxiety and any other mental illness are treated with kindness and respect. Halloween with its frightening themes can worsen mental health.”
This raises the question of how, we as individuals, can change this?
- Be mindful and considerate – understand that mental health issues can be truly hard and choose to avoid triggers such as scaring people in the street or playing games like ‘ding dong ditch’
- Choose your costumes mindfully – Look at your costume and ask yourself if you are perpetuating problematic stereotypes. Help educate your friends to by checking if their costume could act as a trigger. To refer to a quote from a great article about this topic, “to dress like someone with serious mental health issues, just wear your normal clothes and don’t go to a Halloween party.”
- Start conversations – If you see people in the streets scaring people walking by, or see a haunted house that is made out to be a mental asylum, try and speak out. Speak to the people doing it and explain the implications. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, talk to your friends next to you instead. Either way, you are making a difference.
- Check on your friends regularly – If you are going to a social event like a Halloween party, check on your friends. Social anxiety disorders and panic disorders are known as invisible illnesses and it is possible to not to know if your friend might suffer from them. Checking on each other is a healthy way to combat this.
- Have fun – The most important one, is to remember to have fun. Remember that you are just being asked to be considerate to other people, not being told not to celebrate. People struggling with mental health issues do not need or ask for your sympathy, but instead encourage sensitivity!
So here’s wishing you a happy, spooky Halloween! By the simple acts of mindfulness, help eradicate the horrible Halloween horrors of not considering mental health!