Halloween costume offends mental health advocates

Friday, September 25, 2015
Halloween costume offends mental health advocates
image courtesy National Alliance on Mental Illness

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- A controversial Halloween costume has been removed from store shelves after mental health advocates complained it was offensive.

The costume featured bloody hospital scrubs with the words Dorothea Dix Psych Ward on the front, named after a shuttered Raleigh hospital that once treated mentally ill patients.

"It makes people who have mental illness look like criminals," said Jack Register, Exec. Dir. of NAMI North Carolina.

Register, who advocates for people living with mental illness said he takes the costume personally.

"I have family members that have been to Dorthea Dix, so for me that is like a punch in the gut," he said.

"We wouldn't be displaying what breast cancer looks like in a Halloween costume."

The costume was for sale at Halloween Alley stores located at Cary Towne Center and Crabtree Valley Mall.

The Sanford-based company that runs the stores, Floretta Imports, said it was trying to come up with new, local ideas.

"It was definitely not our intention to offend anyone. There are many things that we sell that can be portrayed as offensive to one group or another. So, did I expect someone to be possibly offended? Yes. Did I expect there to be as big of an outcry as there was? No," said company spokesperson Eli Brightbill.

Floretta Imports pulled the costume Thursday after mental health advocates threatened protests.

Register says he is happy to see them go.

"I like Halloween just like everybody else does, but we can do it with pumpkins and ghosts and not trivialize the experience of real people," he said.