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Halloween Stigma

October 27, 2006

A front-page story in the The Chicago Tribune has brought national attention to grassoots protests of Halloween stigma, led by NAMI sttate and local organizations in Illinois, Ohio, and Tennessee. Media coverage of stigma controversies elsewhere resulted. A NAMI StigmaBuster Alert sparked the national focus, which comes at a time when the U.S. Ad Council and the federal government are preparing to launch the National Anti-Stigma Campaign on November 29, 2006. The protests have resulted in public education about stigma and mental illness, changes in the themes of some attractions, or promises by sponsors to think twice next year.

Lead paragraphs of the Chicago Tribune story appear below. The rest of the story is available from The Chicago Tribune. (Sign in and free registration is required, which will open a new browser window.)

Halloween plea: Drop `psycho' holiday theme

By Bonnie Miller Rubin
Tribune staff reporter
Published October 19, 2006

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."


Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune