Asda and Tesco withdraw Halloween patient outfits

Asda product page Asda offered its "sincere apologies" for the offence it caused

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Supermarket chains Tesco and Asda have withdrawn two Halloween outfits after they were criticised for stigmatising people with mental health issues.

Asda dropped its "mental patient fancy dress costume", and Tesco later withdrew its "psycho ward" outfit.

Both stores apologised for any offence caused and agreed to make donations to the mental health charity, Mind.

The charity, which complained that such costumes "fuel" stigma, will receive £25,000 from Asda.

Tesco has not said how much it will donate.

The £20 Asda outfit included ragged clothing, fake blood, a mask and a fake meat cleaver while Tesco's orange boiler suit came with a plastic jaw restraint and offered to "complete the look" with a machete.

Online retailer Amazon had also advertised the "psycho ward" outfit, but later said the costume was "not available".

'Unacceptable error'

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind: "This really went way beyond the line of acceptability"

A Tesco spokesperson said: "We're really sorry for any offence this has caused and we are removing this product from sale."

In a statement on Wednesday evening, Asda, which is owned by US retail giant Walmart, said the sale had been a "completely unacceptable error".

Start Quote

Dear @asda, how on earth did you come to the conclusion that this is an appropriate fancy dress costume? Disgraceful”

End Quote Katie Dalton Mental health charity Gofal

"[The costume] should never have been sold and it was withdrawn as soon as it was brought to our attention."

Asda added: "We're deeply sorry one of our fancy dress costumes has upset people."

It is understood the costume had been on sale through Asda's clothing outlet George for two days, before being withdrawn from sale on Wednesday morning following a complaint from a customer.

Asda said the product had been removed from the website in the afternoon but the relevant page remained visible for a few hours.

It disappeared after the criticism on Twitter started to emerge.

An Asda spokeswoman confirmed £25,000 would be donated to Mind.

Meanwhile, online auction site eBay confirmed it had taken "immediate action" to remove items advertising similar costumes and apologised for any offence caused.

A spokesman said: "The listings are being assessed and removed and no future listings of this nature will be allowed."

Tesco's Tesco had offered a "psycho ward" costume online

Former Downing Street director of communications Alastair Campbell, who has written about his experiences with mental health issues, branded their sale by established companies as "unacceptable"

Speaking to BBC London, he said: "We are trying to change attitudes towards mental illness so people do not stigmatise it and something like this comes along and it just reminds you we are basically still in the Dark Ages.

Alastair Campbell: "Something like this comes along and it just reminds you we are basically still in the Dark Ages"

"We are still in the Dark Ages if some of the biggest companies in this country, Tesco, Asda and Amazon think that it's acceptable to sell something like this."

Elsewhere, Katie Dalton, of Welsh mental health charity Gofal, wrote on Twitter: "Dear @asda, how on earth did you come to the conclusion that this is an appropriate fancy dress costume? Disgraceful."

Former footballer Stan Collymore, who has had a well-documented battle with depression, also criticised Asda for using a "stereotype".

"Do you actually realise how many people are hanging themselves because of being frightened of the stigma?" he tweeted.

The charity Rethink Mental Illness also took to Twitter to say it was "stunned" by the costume's description, but later thanked Asda "for responding" to the "concerns".

'Terrifying Halloween option'

Sue Baker from Mind told BBC Radio 5 live that the worst thing about the costume was it reinforced outdated stigma about people with mental health illness.

"Some of the worst myths that fuel this stigma is the assumption that we're going to be dangerous, knife-wielding maniacs and that is simply not the case."

She added: "The stigma can be life-limiting and life-threatening because people don't think they can talk to anybody and sadly for some people they take the option of not being with us anymore."

The internet link to the website page where Asda's costume was being sold used the words "zombie fancy dress costume".

But the product was titled "mental patient fancy dress costume" on the page itself.

The product details read: "Everyone will be running away from you in fear in this mental patient fancy dress costume... it's a terrifying Halloween option."

Ms Baker had also called for Tesco and Amazon to withdraw the "Psycho Ward" outfit from their websites.

Neil Saunders, of retail research agency Conlumino, said such a "mistake in naming a product" was "inevitable" due to the huge number of items sold by major retailers.

Responding to news about the costumes, some Twitter users posted pictures of themselves in normal clothes, which one described as "my #mentalhealth outfit for the day".

Another tweeted: "@asda I'm a mental health patient. No I am not scary. You should not be selling a 'mental patient' outfit."

Dr Simon Williams, from Northwest University, Chicago, said: "This scandal might be a blessing in disguise because it is bringing issues of stigma in mental health to public scrutiny.

"This is a great and positive response by individuals and by mental health charities, which will help increase awareness of stigmatisation."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 334.

    Here comes the PC bandwagon

    Quick lets all down tools, shout really loud about a great injustice in the world and jump on this bandwagon to make ourselves look like we are taking the moral high ground.


  • rate this

    Comment number 333.

    313. Gordon.

    No your right, i have issues off my own. But im not unreasonable. But the people who think that the problems me and my single parent family went through is because my mother was being dramatic and lazy, then il become unreasonable. I dont see a reason, especially on here, why I shouldnt resort to that...

  • rate this

    Comment number 332.

    "William, William, come back, dont climb over the fence you'll cause a nasty disruption, & please take off that orange boiler suit and mask before you go out, you're upsetting the Corgis, and why is your brother dressed like Billy Connolly"?

  • rate this

    Comment number 331.

    Halloween should be banned, what about the feelings of the ghosts and zombies.

    It is my human right not to be offended by anything.

  • rate this

    Comment number 330.

    The most alarming thing about this story is that these organisations employ people who think that this type of product is OK to sell!

    It tells you everything you need to know about the maturity of their marketing staff and their managers.

    What next? An outfit showing someone with skin cancer?

  • rate this

    Comment number 329.

    Halloween...Another ridiculous American import we don't need.

  • rate this

    Comment number 328.

    These days, we fling our arms up at the slightest comment on mental health, religion and skin colour.

    How long before the ginger gets added to the list?

  • rate this

    Comment number 327.

    The fact that people were complaining about these costumes and that they were withdrawn from sale just goes to show how mental society (in the UK at least has become ! ) If you don't like the item, don't buy it but don't spoil other people's fun ! Political correctness gone mad as usual. Why not ban masks, vampires ghouls and the lot. You need but a minimum of sanity to see this is plain idiotic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 326.

    Judging by the massive overreaction on this costume, I am beginning to think the "psycho" stereotype isn't that far from the truth..Get over yourselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 325.

    I find some of these scary costumes less scary than some children's tv characters as a child - Supergran, T-Bag and Demon Headmaster.

  • rate this

    Comment number 324.

    I take offence at the whole of the modern day 'get your kids begging' halloween night. Can we please remove this nonsense?

  • rate this

    Comment number 323.

    Big deal, simple supply and demand, if you can't get them from Asda people will go out and get them from other places. Took me less than a minute to find another website selling the exact same product... get a grip mental health charities.

  • rate this

    Comment number 322.

    Are you all Mad !!
    It is a costume and not a statement on how society sees people with mental health issues
    it reflects old Hollywood and hammer house of horrors movies.
    stop being so prickly about having a mental illness it's no wonder no one wants to associate with the mentally ill if they are on the defensive all the time
    Stop being so politically correct as we can no longer laugh at ourselves

  • rate this

    Comment number 321.

    This was deplorable. One in four of us are likely to suffer a mental health problem in our lives.

    Corporates must be more aware of the impact of what they do and how that affects our wider society. Actions don't just damage their own reputation, if content with doing that? As this simple scenario shows just selling a product can, in its approach, be negative. Do they never think before acting?

  • rate this

    Comment number 320.

    I would say these are distasteful, but by having such a huge reaction against it, and essentially making mental health a 'no-go' area, you just end up increasing the stigma attached to the subject, which works against everything the mental health charities say they're trying to do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 319.

    What a load of rubbish, should we start banning films with psychos in, like Friday the 13th and the Saw movies.

    This is an over reaction to someone having a bit of fun. Get a life twiter twits!

  • rate this

    Comment number 318.

    Well the Tesco one is clearly supposed to be Hannibal Lecter... I can see that there may be lots of cannibalistic criminals out there who may have been offended by this... for shame Tesco.

    Joking btw. I think this is nuts. It's a costume.

  • rate this

    Comment number 317.

    They must have been mad to include these costumes in the range!

  • rate this

    Comment number 316.

    Of course these outfits should be banned, as should the films "Phycho" and "American Phycho" or anything similar. While we are at it, nurses outfits are often sexist, and vicar/monk outfits are likely to offend religeous people. Ban them all.

    Halloween costumes should, of course, be limited only to witches/fairies for girls and wizards/superheroes for boys. Or is that gender stereotyping?

  • Comment number 315.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


Page 45 of 61


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