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From today's Chicago Tribune:

Mental health advocates on Halloween: Drop the psycho stuff
By Bonnie Miller Rubin
Chicago Tribune
Posted October 19 2006, 12:46 PM EDT

With the Halloween season under way, mental health advocates have a simple request:

Scare people with ghouls and goblins. Fill your haunted house with trap doors and tombstones. But leave out the "psychiatric wards," the "insane asylums" and the bloodthirsty killers in straitjackets.

Such themes, which have become as much a part of Halloween as pumpkins, reinforce negative stereotypes and a stigma that discourages people from seeking treatment, say activists who wage a yearly fight to remove the images from holiday events.

"It's our annual Halloween horror cycle," said Bob Carolla, spokesman for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI. "The cases vary by size and level of offensiveness, but for some reason, this year has been worse than most."

So far, word of about 10 particularly egregious attractions has reached the Arlington, Va.-based organization.

The group's protests have had some effect. The Wheaton Jaycees last week scrambled to change the theme of their haunted house from "Insanitarium" to something more generic. They retooled an "electroshock therapy" scene into an electric chair; posters and ads touting the theme were quickly pulled; apologies were issued.

Others have not been as receptive, including organizers of an asylum-theme house in Murfreesboro, Tenn., and Paramount's Kings Island, a popular amusement park outside Cincinnati that is touting its "PsychoPath"--an outdoor trail of fright.

Real patients used
In Provo, Utah, a newspaper recently ran an impassioned editorial to "Bring Back Haunted Castle," a seasonal fixture at a state hospital that used actual patients as performers before being shut almost a decade ago.

"A far more evil force cast the monsters out--political correctness," wrote the Daily Herald, noting that proceeds benefited the patients' recreation fund.

Most readers who responded were in favor of resurrecting the attraction, despite a NAMI drive "to sway the vote," according to editorial page editor Donald Meyers.

Some observers attribute the connection between the scary holiday and psychiatric disorders to the popularity of the 1978 movie "Halloween," in which an escaped killer--institutionalized since childhood--goes on a violent rampage. Others say such imagery goes back centuries to medieval times.

Whatever the reason, the depictions are harmful, activists say. Criticizing such themes isn't about semantics or being humor-impaired, they add, but about calling attention to a public health issue.

According to a U.S. Surgeon General's report, stigma remains one of the greatest barriers to mental-health care. Next month, several groups--including the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration--will launch the first national campaign to stamp out stereotypes that rarely extend to other ailments.

"It's hard to imagine a cancer patient losing her wig as a source of amusement for patrons," Carolla said.

NAMI regularly sends a "Stigmabusters" alert that flags hurtful representations of brain-based disorders to 20,000 subscribers.

Halloween may be the biggest nightmare for advocates, but deflecting jabs at the mentally ill requires year-round vigilance.

Targets of complaints have ranged from Nestle USA (for Tangy Taffy flavors such as "Psycho Sam") to the Vermont Teddy Bear Co. (makers of a straitjacketed "Crazy for You" cub for Valentine's Day).

The headline a New Jersey newspaper put on a 2002 story about a fire in a psychiatric hospital--"Roasted Nuts"--was "particularly unfortunate," Carolla said. But it also resulted in a series on mental health topics the following year.

After the Wheaton Jaycees heard from NAMI about the group's Halloween "Insanitarium," they quickly took action to change the theme.

"Once we realized that there was a public outcry, we did what had to be done," said Lori Ortolano, a spokeswoman for the Jaycees. "There was never any question."

Mary Lou Lowry, head of NAMI's DuPage County affiliate, praised the response.

"I'm saddened that these kind of things still happen," she said. "But I have to commend them--once we pointed things out, they got on it right away. It's a good learning opportunity for Wheaton."

Civic organizations such as the Jaycees are generally more receptive than commercial enterprises, activists say. Despite NAMI complaints, Paramount's Kings Island is keeping PsychoPath, one of the park's most popular attractions.

Intentions defended
"We are appealing to young adults ... and it's supposed to be more fun than frightening," said company spokeswoman Maureen Kaiser. "It's not intended to make light of mental illness."

In Murfreesboro, site of the Old Salem Insane Asylum, customers pay $15 to be scared by "mental patients" played by members of a local ghost-hunting club.

NAMI took its concerns to a local radio show and distributed materials on depression, schizophrenia and other disorders to visitors, but the group declined to change the event.

"Some people told us to calm down and lighten up," said Gracie Allen, of NAMI's Tennessee chapter. "But others said, I admire you for standing up for what you believe in."

Lowry pointed to new initiatives such as "In Our Own Voice," featuring local business folks who share their experiences with managing illness.

"These are the heroes," she said. "When you hear the stories and get to know people, it helps erode the stigma."
 

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What a load of crap.


* wonder's what a psycho patient would charge to be an actor in my haunt*


That would rule!
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I will tell you from experience that a real mental hospital is a frightening place. The town I grew up in is home to a major state mental facility here in Florida. It's right in the middle of town and is a major employer. It houses a population ranging from the criminally insane to people who have been deemed a danger to themselves and others. I used to help out with delivering flowers for the local florist where my mother works and absolutely dreaded having to make deliveries to the hospital. I know that the folks can't help how they are and they are basically drugged and warehoused in these state-run facilities, but they are allowed to wander at will (for the most part) around the grounds, in and out of the administrative buildings and the front offices of the wards. There have been times when I have wanted to just drop bouquets of flowers in the middle of the lobby and run out of the place screaming. "Clients" (as they are referred to--it's un-PC to call them 'patients' anymore) have the uncanny ability to detect people from the outside and once they spot you, they will shuffle and lumber up to you like a mob of zombies (no joke, this is exactly what they remind me of). Besides being quite small, I'm the type of person who doesn't like her personal space breached, so this really would freak me out. There was seldom personnel around to keep clients reigned in. I would always try to not show any fear and walk purposefully to wherever I was going and back to the delivery van. I was glad when my male cousin went on delivery runs with me because he would always take deliveries into the more "intense" wards. I know, I know...I'm a terrible and uncompassionate person.

Incidents with staff abound there (an employee died recently after breaking up a fight between clients and another staff member) and I'm surprised that there has been no incident (that I know of) of a visitor being accosted physically by clients.
 

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grapegrl - Indeed they are scary places and your experiences are the same as a family member who used to be in the mental health care field. She bailed on the profession due to some of the same incidents you describe above. I also think hospitals in general are scary places. Same with jails and prisons - been to a ton of those and they are really insane places.

Visiting, folks, just visiting.
 

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You grew up near Chattahoochee, Double G? I've driven or rode by it a couple of times and everytime I did the theme for Halloween instantly started playing in my head.

And just for the record, JT and Ed, Motel Hell is not a great movie. :D
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Yup, Sin, I grew up in Chattahoochee. It's a nice little town, it just has the dubious distinction of being home to Florida State Hospital. The hospital complex is actually very well-kept and meticulously landscaped and sits off of Highway 90 a bit, so it's not terribly obvious that a large chunk of real estate is devoted to a major state facility. With the exception of an occasional escape, most folks on the "outside" who don't work there probably wouldn't even give the place a second thought. It's actually on the National Register of Historic Places and dates back to 1877 as an asylum, but before that it was a Civil War arsenal. Lots of cool history there.

I live just across the river now. My property is across the road from the sprawling far reaches of one of the larger prisons in the state. It's really a lovely view...rolling pasture land that was at one time home to the prison's dairy herd, but I think that there are beef cattle out there now.
 

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Mental hospitals aint so bad,the ghosts give me some one to talk to(other than myself) the only part I hate was the straight jacket.Real uncomfortable !!:googly:
 

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It's not the crazies in the psyche wards that scare me - it's the ones on the outside! :googly:
 

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Seriously - shouldn't all the PC "activists" (read whiners) just get over their hyper senstivities and get over themselves? What a load of crap!
 

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I never really thought about putting an insane asylum theme out, but I might now. :D
Ever see the T-shirt that says "I'm Schizophrenic and so am I" I gota get one of those, me too.
 

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From today's Chicago Tribune:

Mental health advocates on Halloween: Drop the psycho stuff
By Bonnie Miller Rubin
Chicago Tribune
Posted October 19 2006, 12:46 PM EDT

With the Halloween season under way, mental health advocates have a simple request:

Scare people with ghouls and goblins. Fill your haunted house with trap doors and tombstones. But leave out the "psychiatric wards," the "insane asylums" and the bloodthirsty killers in straitjackets.

Such themes, which have become as much a part of Halloween as pumpkins, reinforce negative stereotypes and a stigma that discourages people from seeking treatment, say activists who wage a yearly fight to remove the images from holiday events.

"It's our annual Halloween horror cycle," said Bob Carolla, spokesman for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI. "The cases vary by size and level of offensiveness, but for some reason, this year has been worse than most."

So far, word of about 10 particularly egregious attractions has reached the Arlington, Va.-based organization.

The group's protests have had some effect. The Wheaton Jaycees last week scrambled to change the theme of their haunted house from "Insanitarium" to something more generic. They retooled an "electroshock therapy" scene into an electric chair; posters and ads touting the theme were quickly pulled; apologies were issued.

Others have not been as receptive, including organizers of an asylum-theme house in Murfreesboro, Tenn., and Paramount's Kings Island, a popular amusement park outside Cincinnati that is touting its "PsychoPath"--an outdoor trail of fright.

Real patients used
In Provo, Utah, a newspaper recently ran an impassioned editorial to "Bring Back Haunted Castle," a seasonal fixture at a state hospital that used actual patients as performers before being shut almost a decade ago.

"A far more evil force cast the monsters out--political correctness," wrote the Daily Herald, noting that proceeds benefited the patients' recreation fund.

Most readers who responded were in favor of resurrecting the attraction, despite a NAMI drive "to sway the vote," according to editorial page editor Donald Meyers.

Some observers attribute the connection between the scary holiday and psychiatric disorders to the popularity of the 1978 movie "Halloween," in which an escaped killer--institutionalized since childhood--goes on a violent rampage. Others say such imagery goes back centuries to medieval times.

Whatever the reason, the depictions are harmful, activists say. Criticizing such themes isn't about semantics or being humor-impaired, they add, but about calling attention to a public health issue.

According to a U.S. Surgeon General's report, stigma remains one of the greatest barriers to mental-health care. Next month, several groups--including the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration--will launch the first national campaign to stamp out stereotypes that rarely extend to other ailments.

"It's hard to imagine a cancer patient losing her wig as a source of amusement for patrons," Carolla said.

NAMI regularly sends a "Stigmabusters" alert that flags hurtful representations of brain-based disorders to 20,000 subscribers.

Halloween may be the biggest nightmare for advocates, but deflecting jabs at the mentally ill requires year-round vigilance.

Targets of complaints have ranged from Nestle USA (for Tangy Taffy flavors such as "Psycho Sam") to the Vermont Teddy Bear Co. (makers of a straitjacketed "Crazy for You" cub for Valentine's Day).

The headline a New Jersey newspaper put on a 2002 story about a fire in a psychiatric hospital--"Roasted Nuts"--was "particularly unfortunate," Carolla said. But it also resulted in a series on mental health topics the following year.

After the Wheaton Jaycees heard from NAMI about the group's Halloween "Insanitarium," they quickly took action to change the theme.

"Once we realized that there was a public outcry, we did what had to be done," said Lori Ortolano, a spokeswoman for the Jaycees. "There was never any question."

Mary Lou Lowry, head of NAMI's DuPage County affiliate, praised the response.

"I'm saddened that these kind of things still happen," she said. "But I have to commend them--once we pointed things out, they got on it right away. It's a good learning opportunity for Wheaton."

Civic organizations such as the Jaycees are generally more receptive than commercial enterprises, activists say. Despite NAMI complaints, Paramount's Kings Island is keeping PsychoPath, one of the park's most popular attractions.

Intentions defended
"We are appealing to young adults ... and it's supposed to be more fun than frightening," said company spokeswoman Maureen Kaiser. "It's not intended to make light of mental illness."

In Murfreesboro, site of the Old Salem Insane Asylum, customers pay $15 to be scared by "mental patients" played by members of a local ghost-hunting club.

NAMI took its concerns to a local radio show and distributed materials on depression, schizophrenia and other disorders to visitors, but the group declined to change the event.

"Some people told us to calm down and lighten up," said Gracie Allen, of NAMI's Tennessee chapter. "But others said, I admire you for standing up for what you believe in."

Lowry pointed to new initiatives such as "In Our Own Voice," featuring local business folks who share their experiences with managing illness.

"These are the heroes," she said. "When you hear the stories and get to know people, it helps erode the stigma."
Ya got to have Psychos! Screw these clowns, I'll have people dressed like nutzos if I want.
 
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