Letter: Mental illness not funny

By on October 13, 2011

As the Halloween season approaches, I would like to make a request on behalf of all the families in our Kane County area that have experienced a mental illness in their family life: please do not use or promote the image of someone who is mentally ill as a costume character.

The image of a straight-jacketed or ax-wielding “mad” man or woman only contributes to the inaccurate portrayal of those with mental illness. These images are hurtful and add to the stigma suffered by those with mental illness.

Most mental illness is caused by a biological chemical imbalance in the brain. Mental illness is a disease, just like cancer or diabetes.

Would you favor an image or character that makes fun of those diseases? I would hope not. It also perpetuates the myth that all mentally ill persons are dangerous.
Statistically, persons with mental illness are much more likely to be victims of crime rather than the perpetrators of it. Lastly, these images also imply that having a mental illness is hopeless. The facts show that most mental illnesses can be successfully treated. Treatment works for the great majority of people.

I would also ask the business people or clubs that operate “horror” houses across our area to refrain from using mental patient-type characters in their establishments. Persons receiving mental health services in an effort to improve their life do not need to be imprinted with the stigma conveyed by these images. Stigma is the number one reason that the mentally ill don’t seek treatment.

So please no raving or drooling “maniacs” this Halloween. You could be making fun of a neighbor or relative. Please stick to vampire fangs and werewolf hair and have a good time this Halloween.

Jerry J. Murphy,
Executive director, INC Board
Aurora

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