The recent public furore in relation to the sale by major UK retailers, Tesco, Asda and Amazon of offensive halloween costumes depicting “mental patient” characters has reignited the debate surrounding mental health and public perception.

The release of the costumes for sale was met with a great deal of press coverage and led to a twitter storm. The vast majority of the commentary raised serious concerns at the prejudicial and crass stereotype of mental health issues that the costumes fuelled, and the use of that stereotype for commercial gain by the companies involved. Significant concerns were expressed that the sale of the costumes showed that the outdated Victorian stigma of mental health issues, and those affected by them, was still being held in Britain today.

However, another, more positive, view can be taken, in that the volume and strength of the public condemnation of the sale of the costumes suggests that, in fact, a large part of the general public is no longer willing to see mental health issues and those dealing with them stigmatised in such a crass, outdated manner.

In addition, the debate has served to bring mental health issues once more into the general public view and led to public discussion; a further positive outcome. 1 in 4 of the population in Britain today is affected in some way by mental health issues, and more and more public figures are comfortable in sharing their own experiences of mental health issues. A high profile example is Alistair Campbell, former Downing Street director of communications, who has also publicly condemned the sale of the costumes as “unacceptable” . This all helps to show that it is not a small, unseen minority who are dealing daily with mental health matters but a huge number of the general public from all walks of life, including those in the public eye.

A major concern for those seeking help and guidance in relation to mental health issues, through CBT, counselling with a psychologist or other channels, is the ability to share their concerns, fears and feelings with other people. Often, those seeking help and support find sharing their concerns with friends and family extremely difficult, which can be in part due to the perceived stigma and public stereotype of mental health and those affected by it. The stigma will continue to be eroded by preventing the issue of mental health from becoming a taboo subject. This can be achieved through on going, open, understanding public discussion.

For help with your mental health issues talk to The Harley Psychology & Therapy Group for expert help and advice. 0845 467 0940

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