Today’s big news is the one about Asda selling ‘mental patient’ fancy dress costume for Halloween. Tesco and Amazon have been too, which is now taken off sale following public criticism.
This is absolutely disgraceful. This is exactly why people are ashamed to talk about mental health because it does not have a decent connotation attached to it. It is seen as a horrible thing, a shameful thing, which can explain why people are still adamant to talk about it.
When people think about the mentally ill, they think ‘crazy’ ‘messed up’ ‘loony’ ‘psycho’. They are often seen as violent. Why? The mentally ill can be victims of violence. People judge without knowing the reasons. I have met a lot of people in mental health units and not one seemed ‘crazy’ to me. In fact, they were the most understanding and warm people I have ever met. That was probably due to the fact that I could relate to them but that is besides the point.
You could be walking down the street passing someone who suffers from depression but they could look absolutely normal. People who have mental health issues are not crazy and people really need to understand that.
Yes, we often hear the word ‘stigma’ and you are probably sick of it but it is true. There is still a stigma attached to mental health and unfortunately I think that stigma will not go away anytime soon because of the likes of Asda, Tesco and Amazon.
People are slowly starting to understand it a bit more which is great but there needs to be more done about this stigma. It took me a while to be open about my problems and one of the reasons why I am slowly opening up my mental health problems is because I want to help break that stigma and also help and inspire people along the way. I was ashamed before because I thought people would judge me but after speaking to others and mental health specialists about it, they have made me realise that there is nothing to be ashamed of.
People who suffer from mental health problems are often weary about what people will think. I wrote an article for Time To Change about talking about mental health in the Islamic community, which will be published very soon. This is because it is something I am facing currently. In my culture, the mentally ill is often seen as someone who is not worthy of anything. They are seen as an insignificant, crazy and scary person, which is also the case in the wider society.
Hiding my problems has not helped me with getting better. In fact, when you hide your problems, it gets worse. I want to see a change in the way we talk about mental health. The attitude to it completely disgusts me. I will not say I faced any discrimination at work or at a place of study but I know people who have and this needs to change.
Labour leader Ed Miliband raised this issue in his party conference speech earlier this week and MP’s do occasionally come out about their own mental health problems, which is very admiring and allows others to be open about their problems too. I really think if this issue is often raised in Parliament, more people will start to talk about it.
We must accept the fact that mental health is something that is normal and should not to be hidden or kept secret, just because society thinks it should be. Asda may describe the stereotype of mental illness but know that mental illness is far from that.