To the Editor:
As the Halloween season approaches, I would like to make a request on the 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. “Horror houses” that use such characters add to this myth. These images are hurtful and add to the stigma suffered by those with mental illness. This stigma often results in a delay in getting needed treatment for their 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 convince people 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.
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 of INC Board NFP and chair of the Kane County Mental Health Council