Asda Halloween Mental Patient Outrage
Such outrage over the supermarket Asda selling a fancy-dress outfit featuring a character covered in blood as a”mental patient costume”. Asda’s doomed prank was brandishing a meat cleaver and billed as a “mental patient fancy dress costume.” The outfit, designed to look like a blood-splattered straitjacket with ragged edges, was on sale for £20 through the store’s clothing arm, George, has now been withdrawn.
A perfect case of people in glass houses not throwing stones if ever there was one. How many times have you looked askance at somebody in the past week? Perhaps they looked as if they were not quite right – one sandwich short of the full picnic, the lift didn’t go the whole way up. You know what I’m talking about. We have developed far too many slang words for mental illness: ‘Psychos, wierdos, nut-jobs. Try counting the number you pass on an average day. The result is very revealing. It says a lot about the person counting as well as those being counted. And you have to include every oddity you meet in this particular ‘mental’ tally: smelly street beggars, drunks staggering home, road-rage drivers, mothers screaming at tantrum-prone toddlers, stressed executives. The list goes on and on. After all, statistics dictate that one in five of us is potentially mentally ill.
Like it or not, in this country, most people are prejudiced against the mentally ill. You probably know someone who has been depressed lately or even been in a psychiatric hospital. How did you respond when you first heard the news? Did you back away, mutter a few words and quietly put the person to the back of your mind, at least until he or she was better? Even more revealing – how would you react if the house next door to yours was earmarked as a future home for long-stay patients coming out of hospital – in other words if community care were to come to your back yard. Of course, you thought the concept was brilliant when it was first mooted. It’s great to have people who have been institutionalised for years and years move out of hospital into a home of their own. Then you receive a letter saying they are going to move into the house next door to you. Hey, wait a minute, you thought. What will these neighbours be like? Will they start molesting my children? Will they turn the neighbourhood into a modern-day Bedlam with their mad shouting and screaming? Most important of all: will the value of my house plummet? So, you sign a petition. You tiptoe around it at first. You don’t want to be nasty and say you’d rather they didn’t live next door. That’s a bit much. So you couch it slightly differently. You say the area isn’t suitable for that sort of person – whatever that means. Guess what? You’re prejudiced. You’re discriminating against a group of people because they are ill. What business is it of yours who is moving in next door anyway?
I have never understood why so many organisations consult residents in a street about people who are mentally ill moving into the area. What has it got to do with anyone else? When I move house, I would dearly love to have a survey carried out of the people next door beforehand. Are they noisy? Do they have a stereo blaring all day and night? Do they drink a lot? It would be wonderful to know in advance. That way I wouldn’t waste money on an unsuitable house. But I can’t do that because it would be a travesty of human rights. That is the difference between physical and mental illness. You wouldn’t mind a man with a broken leg moving in next door. But a broken mind, no thanks.
At least Asda has had the decency to apologise and withdraw the Halloween outfit. In a statement on Wednesday evening, Asda, which is owned by US retail giant Walmart, said the sale had been a “completely unacceptable error”.
A step in the right direction.