Mental Health is Not a Costume

by Tanya Ruhl

Looking around this past Halloween, we have all seen them, the strait jackets, the masks with the bars over the mouths so you can’t be bitten, even the outfits that say psych ward with a patient number on them. Every year these costumes come out, but that’s not all. We even have the haunted insane asylums, equating treatment to a desolate, scary place which cannot be escaped from. It’s not just the costumes and the places but even more damaging is the bloody bandages on wrists, someone with a slashed throat, even staged death by suicide of someone hanging. For individuals with mental health conditions, these images can be damaging and hurtful.

Mental health is not a costume. It is not something someone can take off at the end of the day. Real people struggle with this. Many of us don’t walk around looking like a medicated zombie as you have seen in the movies. We have families, hold down jobs, and look just like the average Joe. On Halloween though things change, and we must see the mockery that is made of mental health struggles, and it makes me feel sick to my stomach. It makes me wonder if that’s what people really think of me sometimes. That I’m unstable, a ticking timebomb.

My mental health struggles make me stronger, more resilient. It’s not something anyone should be ashamed of- it’s something we should be proud of. Yes, I have my bad days, but they are less frequent now. I also have a great support system that I did not always have. I had to learn to reach out and ask for help and there is no shame in that. Everyone needs help occasionally. How am I stronger you ask? I can help others now by sharing my story. I can educate as well like I am doing here by sharing a different point of view. Even if it only plants a seed, it’s a start. I have accepted that I have bipolar disorder and C-PTSD, but they do not have me. So, despite all the disguises that we see all around us on Halloween, it’s important that we all remember one thing: mental health is not a costume.