Mental Illness is Not a Halloween Costume

One year, when my oldest daughter was about ten years old, she dressed up like a cereal killer. When she told me about her idea, I loved it and thought it was a very clever and creative idea. I loved the play on words, cereal killer versus serial killer.

We made her costume to look like she was a box of cereal and then added a lot of blood, maybe too much blood. We were having fun and may have gotten a bit carried away with adding too much blood. I helped turn her into a scary, gory and ghoulish looking box of cereal. I thought she looked great and I was proud of her creative idea. I love creativity.

So the bad mom that I unknowingly was at that time for letting my daughter dress like this, sent my cute little daughter out onto the streets to go trick or treating. When people asked her what she was, she told everyone she was a cereal killer, but of course people heard serial killer. I thought it was a great costume and was cute and funny because she was a box of cereal. Not everyone thinks like me.

When Kylie was Trick or Treating she stopped at one house and a woman told her, in a very unkind tone, that she didn’t like her costume and that it was in very poor taste and she shouldn’t dress up like that. This made my daughter Kylie feel very bad and she didn’t understand why she said that. I told her not to worry about that and the woman was just probably a crabby person that didn’t have a good sense of humor. I told Kylie her costume looked great, she looked awesome and it was a cool and very creative costume.

My cute little girl told everyone she was a serial killer. When I look back at it now it was just for fun, but we might have gone over the top and gone too far. That woman was probably right, it might have been in poor taste.

Since I have become more sensitive, perceptive and aware of words and language and with what is going on in society today, I would never let my daughter dress up like that now.

When I was in college I dressed up like a bag lady, which is what I called it at the time. In actuality, it was a homeless person. I wore layers of old tattered clothing and made them and the rest of me look dirty and unclean, teased up my hair so it looked like I hadn’t showered or bathed for days and had a missing tooth. I didn’t realize it at the time but I was actually making fun of homeless people. Being homeless is not funny at all, but is a very painful and sad reality for many.

Ironically, I become homeless and lived in three different homeless shelters during a three-month period. I didn’t look like the costume I wore back in college, but I was homeless and was a so-called “bag lady.” I wore normal clothes and I showered. I just didn’t have a home. I became homeless when and because I had hit a severe full-blown manic episode and was at a very low point of my life. It still haunts me to this day.

Approximately one-third of the total homeless population includes individuals with serious, untreated mental illnesses according to a research summary compiled by the Treatment Advocacy Center. Approximately 33 percent of the homeless are individuals with serious mental illnesses that are untreated. Many of these people suffer from schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder or major depression.

For Halloween, many people dress in weird, bloody, scary costumes and say they are a crazy person. Crazy is defined as a mentally deranged person, especially as manifested in a wild or aggressive way and people use the word crazy in a belittling, degrading and shaming way that stigmatizes people with mental illness.

Stop the Crazy Talk

Stop the crazy talk and… mental illness is not a Halloween costume.

If you want to dress up like a person with mental illness, wear normal clothes. You could dress up in fancy clothes and wear pretty make-up looking beautiful, glamorous and fabulous because that is also how a person looks who has a mental illness. You could also dress up in sweats or in your pajamas and even have messy hair and look disheveled and unclean because sometimes a person with depression and mental illness just does not have the energy or ability to function or take a shower. That can happen too, but mostly we wear normal clothes. We look like everyone else.

There is no look, face, uniform or costume for mental illness.

Mental illness is not a Halloween costume.

I hope everyone has a happy and healthy and safe Halloween.

Copyright © By Susan Walz and – All written content and personal artwork is © and Susan Walz. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner/artist is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to My Loud Bipolar Whispers and/or Susan Walz with appropriate and specific directions to the original content.