Search ‘mental hospital haunted house,’ and 8,410,000 results pop up. Each citing legendary haunts and thrills for those ‘brave enough to attend.’ In Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia, Pennhurst State School and Hospital advertises opening its doors for the first time in 25 years for “new patients.” The long-closed and abandoned Eloise Asylum has been turned into a high-tech, immersive horror-themed Halloween attraction in Michigan. Haunted houses and other seasonal events often feature rooms or sections playing on the fear of the ‘insane’ of the ‘psycho’ out to get you.
The draw toward the ‘insane’ on Halloween has only increased with films like “Halloween” and “Split” which depict those mental health issues as evil and mental health care facilities as unsafe. Stereotypes that are damaging to the understanding of those with mental health concerns. When we equate mental illness itself and individuals dealing with mental illness (and certain diagnoses especially) with horror movie villains, we see an increase in general distrust and fear of folks dealing with these illnesses and disorders.
Halloween is popular for its celebration of all things scary and wicked, but mental illnesses aren’t either of those things. Individuals with these illnesses are often mislabeled as dangerous, extremely violent, or unstable. The inaccuracies depicted in film and tv further these incorrect assumptions held by the general public. We all want to and should continue enjoying the spooky, scary fun of Halloween. But, we must also think more critically about the media we are consuming and how we can continue to fight to destigmatize mental illness on Halloween and every day.
*Trigger warning – depiction of abuse*
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