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Supermarket chains Tesco and Asda have withdrawn two Halloween outfits after they were criticised for stigmatising people with mental health issues.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"[The costume] should never have been sold and it was withdrawn as soon as it was brought to our attention."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It is understood the costume had been on sale through Asda's clothing outlet George for two days, before being withdrawn from sale on Wednesday morning following a complaint from a customer.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 874.

    Donning a dark grey boiler suit, you could become Michael Myers; a hockey mask Jason Voorhees; a profession costume isn’t offensive being a profession as said and it’s also daily advertised on TV regarding ‘uniform dating’. It’s the title of MENTAL HEALTH! It’s an illness, how can you costume an illness?

  • rate this

    Comment number 873.

    To all the people who are of the opinion that it's acceptable to depict a mentally ill person as a blood spattered, zombie-like creature, please consider the feelings and sensibilities of all of those mentally ill people and their families/friends that have to experience the general ignorance of mental illness. It is only the labelling that is offensive - not the costume. We are not kill-joys!

  • rate this

    Comment number 872.

    A disproportionate fuss about nothing

  • rate this

    Comment number 871.

    I am shocked by the response here. I had no idea mental illness was still seen as a butt for jokes. Bring back c18th Bedlam.

    You fail to understand the damage you do. This is not offensive, it's harmful to a small, highly vulnerable section of society.

    The majority seem to be missing the point because they either cannot understand or are unwilling to try.

  • rate this

    Comment number 870.

    @ ScoobyM
    I like to buy black, white and pink peppercorns together in those little jars with grinders on the top and crush them slowly into the coffee of people I don't like at the office. it is very satisfying and it relieves occupational stress.

  • rate this

    Comment number 869.

    "How are these in any way distasteful? Once again, the PC brigade are out in force. "

    "Mental patient" is deeply distasteful. Teh outfit isn't. Nt a difficult point to understand even for the most knuckle-scraping Daily Express reader.

    Tell you what - I have an outfit for sale representing the dismembered body of Princess Diana. Sounds right up your street. How could anyone take offence?

  • rate this

    Comment number 868.

    In the UK it isn't trick or treat. I..we got dressed in suitably scary costumes, went round the neighbours houses, told them a joke, or sang a little song, then got rewarded for our efforts with some sweets, ..

    Unfortunately it is in many places now (especially England), Scotland & Ireland gave the US "Guising" & they turned it into "Demanding money with menaces" & sent it back

  • rate this

    Comment number 867.

    The grotesque stupidity of product management displayed here is just amazing. Clearly they don't understand any social context for their merchandise. It is all about buying rubbish and sticking it on the profit margin.

    ...on the other hand they could relabel and go to market with MP's uniform?

  • rate this

    Comment number 866.

    @809.Jo Anton
    You have my sympathies, you really do but what you're suggesting is limiting everyones freedom.
    Should there be a list that can be checked by various campaigners before shops sell them.
    "I'm sorry we don't have Series 1 of Dexter due to the character's obvious mental issues"
    "We don't stock mugs anymore saying "You dont have to be mad to work here..."
    "No Ginger Beer here"

  • Comment number 865.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 864.

    I have had a serious "menta"l breakdown: and suffered anxiety and depression......but come on folks, this is halloween. I thought the outfit was pretty good, but maybe "badged" incorrectly. I certainly wasn't offended by it. Is the day of the mad axeman gone forever in fancy dress?

  • Comment number 863.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 862.

    851. jezzipin
    Once again, the PC brigade are out in force.
    That's just it, they are not. It's your "PC Gone Mad" brigade that is out in force. It's like World War Z on here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 861.

    Asda knew exactly what they were doing, how can you buy 1000s of outfits by mistake?
    Both sides of my family have had serious Mental and straight jacket issues. It didn't even occur to me to be offended. I also have a child with red hair who may or may not be loved by Santa. Just grow up get over yourselves. Namby-pamby UK again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 860.

    Reminds me of a song from 1966 by Jerry Samuels and used the name Napoleon X1V

    They're coming to take me away, ha-haaa!!
    They're coming to take me away, ho-ho, hee-hee, ha-haaa
    To the funny farm. Where life is beautiful all the time and I'll be
    happy to see those nice young men in their clean white coats and they're
    coming to take me away, ha-haaa!!!!!

    Perhaps this will be banned next

  • rate this

    Comment number 859.

    836.Michael Lloyd -No doubt anyone who finds a schoolgirl outfit sexy.. is a raging paedophile?

    Of course not - mind you I'm not sure I'd want to be involved with one.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 858.

    The "Psycho Ward" costume has an adult age range of 18 - 100. So what about those of us over 100 years old ... this is clearly an ageist policy. I am so shocked & appalled I shall be writing to my MP to voice my outrage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 857.

    An asbolute disgrace. I suffer from mental health - I'm not a "psycho", "mental" or "violent". There are many others like me who live a normal life. I am so angered by the costumes and the ignorance of people who felt it would be OK to sell them.
    Living with mental health is easier than living with the stigma - scandal helps increase awareness of stigmatisation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 856.

    I'm not offended but using the term' Mental Patient' in the description is a tad insensitive to say the least. Yes I do suffer from Bipolar disorder and have done for years and wether you like it or not there IS still a stigma in society as people who don't suffer with it just don't understand the condition at all. Over reaction? Possibly, but it hasn't helped peoples prejudices.

  • rate this

    Comment number 855.

    I agree the naming is slightly offensive, however the Psycho one surely can't be to anyone. After all we have enjoyed the movie Psycho since 1960 and a further 3 incarnations after that. It also very much reminds me of Jason from the Halloween movies.

    814. garyhaywardcom
    I think a Jimmy Saville suit would fit that bill.

    813. Briddo
    You seem surprised that there has been a general overreaction


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