This Halloween our community clubhouse had their annual haunted house. As we were about to attend the event with our older boys, I noticed that the haunted house was titled “The Asylum”. The invitation read, “Attempt to maintain your sanity as you tour through ‘The Asylum!’”
Hmmm... We decided that it was probably best to stay home since my son has a mental illness. I expected the event to be a little offense, but I seriously underestimated!
The next day I saw the photos posted on Facebook. I have to say, I was stunned. They created a haunted house that was about mental patients being out of control. I guess I expected a little gore at a haunted house, but the scenes created were shocking to say the least.
Instead of monsters and creatures, they created a scene of a young girl dressed in a hospital gown calmly sitting in a bathtub cutting herself. Behind her were the words, “NO MORE PAIN” written in blood. All around the girl were sharp objects such as knives and broken glass used in her “cutting” episode as blood dripped from her wounds.
Another scene was a young man in a hospital gown above a toilet. He was smearing feces all over the walls.
Down the hall there was a sign that said “MED STATION” and a line of children waiting to get their meds, all appearing like drugged up victims with self-inflicted scratch marks on their faces.
A sign that said “DANGER! PSYCHOS!” hung from the hospital wall as a man that was chained in a hospital gown stood in a room surrounded by manic writings on the wall.
I usually try not to be offended, but I felt my heart race as I saw these images. They were successful in horrifying me, but it wasn’t because I was scared, instead I was thinking...
What if I had brought my kids to see this? What would my son, who himself suffers from a mental illness, think about these images?
What can images like this do to a community who has a high suicide rate in their youth? What about the parents who have found their children dead with letters of “No more pain.”
How will we ever build compassion for those suffering with mental illness if they remain a “monster” in the eyes of the public?
And most importantly consider this. Stigma is one of the greatest barriers for individuals who need help for their mental illness. Images like this can discourage people from seeking the help they need. Will the girl who cuts herself in private ever feel comfortable in asking for help? Is she afraid that people will think she’s a “dangerous psycho”? Not getting treatment can lead to her death. This is a serious issue!
I know this question is tired, but I have to ask. Would they ever think to create a haunted house with cancer patients in a cancer ward?
I’m so disappointed in my community, I know that they never intended to be offensive and that they worked really hard volunteering their time to create a fun evening for families, but they are sorely misinformed.
We have so much more work to do before society sees mental illness as a real illness, with real patients and families who suffer tremendously.
Tomorrow I’m meeting with the head of our community organization with hopes of making a change— one person at a time.
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I’m a mother of 3 young boys, the oldest suffering from Bipolar 1 Disorder. I write a blog to let go of my pain and to help support others by letting them know they’re not alone.
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