Mental health charity’s outrage at ‘costumes’

The director of a mental health charity in Leeds has blasted “highly offensive” Halloween costumes which have now been shelved by two supermarket giants.
The costume on Asda's websiteThe costume on Asda's website
The costume on Asda's website

Leeds-based Asda was forced to issue an apology over its “mental health patient” outfit which is designed to look like a blood-splattered straitjacket with ragged edges.

The outfit was on sale for £20 through the supermarket’s clothing arm George.

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Many took to Twitter to express their disgust at the description including former footballer Stan Collymore, who has a well-documented battle with depression.

He tweeted: “Dear ASDA, nice stereotype of ‘’ Mental patients’’. Something you’d expect from the ###. A ******* joke.”

“Do you actually realise how many people are hanging themselves because of being frightened of the stigma? Wording is CLEAR. MENTAL PATIENT.”

Asda apologised for the incident in a series of tweets and said it would be making a donation to mental health charity Mind.

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Tesco were also forced to remove its “psycho ward” costumes from shelves and issue an apology following the outcry.

Leeds Mind director Niccola Swan said that the outfits were “highly offensive” to people who were affected by mental health problems.

She told the Yorkshire Post: “It is good news that Asda and Tesco have responded to the media campaign protesting against their misguided and thoughtless ‘mental health patient’ and ‘psycho ward’ fancy dress costumes and have decided to support Mind.

“The outcry on Twitter has been overwhelming, with individuals and representatives from mental health service providers and Time to Change in Leeds and across the UK taking to the social media site to voice their disgust and to present what real mental health patients look like.

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“It doesn’t take much thought to realise that these costumes and how they were labelled is highly offensive to people who are affected by mental health problems, their families and friends.”

She said that mental health problems affects, on average, one in four people every year and she found the decision to promote them “worrying”.

Ms Swan added: “It’s very worrying that individuals working within retail businesses still find it ok to promote such items for sale.

“It does make you wonder what their thinking was and if they have thought about the diverse communities they sell to.

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“We hope we can support Asda, Tesco and their employees in Leeds by offering support on mental health awareness, including encouraging them to become a Mindful Employer.”

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of mental health charity Sane, said: “We welcome Asda’s withdrawal of the costume, which could only serve to reinforce prejudice and misperceptions of mental illness, leaving those already struggling with mental health problems more lonely and excluded.”

Paul Jenkins, chief executive of the charity Rethink Mental Illness, added: “I am pleased to see Asda has now removed the costume from their website, but the fact it was ever there in the first place is completely unacceptable.

“This costume is breathtakingly insensitive, and it’s shocking that Asda ever felt it was an appropriate product to sell. There is already so much stigma surrounding mental illness, and ‘joke’ products like this only serve to make things worse.”

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A spokeswoman from Asda issued an apology on behalf of the supermarket and said: “This was an unacceptable error and the product was withdrawn immediately. We’d like to offer our sincere apologies for the offence it caused. We take our responsibilities very seriously which is why we will make a sizeable donation to MIND.”

A spokesman from Tesco added: “We’re really sorry for any offence this has caused and have removed this product from sale.”