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Supermarket chains Tesco and Asda have withdrawn two Halloween outfits after they were criticised for stigmatising people with mental health issues.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"[The costume] should never have been sold and it was withdrawn as soon as it was brought to our attention."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It is understood the costume had been on sale through Asda's clothing outlet George for two days, before being withdrawn from sale on Wednesday morning following a complaint from a customer.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 854.

    Mountain out of a mole hill.....and as someone has already said what about the inappropriate clothing for young girls seen in these and other stores?

  • rate this

    Comment number 853.

    This has been blown out of all proportion. Asda made a massive mistake by calling the costume "Mental patient", but I really don't see anything wrong with the Tesco one

    It was really only the Asda one that was objected to but when that became a news story the press immediatly went checking other stores to try & "catch some others out" & blow the story up more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 852.

    84.Phil Sears
    the sooner we get rid of this odious American 'trick or treat' imported spectacle, the better

    In the UK it isn't trick or treat. I remember as kids that 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, and the ubiquitous monkey nuts.
    Great stuff !!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 851.

    How are these in any way distasteful? Once again, the PC brigade are out in force. This used to be such a great country until you people made everyone tip-toe around their lives avoiding anything that can could potentially cause 'emotional' harm to anyone else. No wonder most people are soft nowadays!

  • rate this

    Comment number 850.

    they should do an 'it's pc gone mad' costume, it's a guy from the 18th century walking around with golliwogs and pictures of 'hysterical' women in chains just like the good old days when you could be racist and sexist and generally a terrible person and nobody cared

  • rate this

    Comment number 849.

    how sad that people are so easily offended by a fancy dress costume. its a joke...get a life

  • rate this

    Comment number 848.

    I don't think it is a true stereo type, as I think of mental patients sitting in the corner dribbling, and not what is depicted above.

  • rate this

    Comment number 847.

    Out of curiousity, how many of you getting your knickers in a twist over this were offended by the concept of psychologically disturbed homicidal maniac costumes yesterday?

    whilst you're answering that question, just remember that one of the symptoms of Narcissism (a psychological disorder) is the tendency to be EASILY offended

  • rate this

    Comment number 846.

    My final word, having been shocked by the lack of awareness of mental illness. Also off to visit my daughter.

    Before you cry 'PC gone mad' one more time, do consider the difference between 'offensive' and 'harmful'. The progress of western civilisation has depended on offending people and being blasphemous. Bring it on.

    The mental patient costume is harmful because it directly affects patients.

  • rate this

    Comment number 845.

    By extending this argument you reach the conclusion

    - Witch outfits mean all women are witches and actually ride around on broomsticks
    - All sheets are potential ghosts and should be feared at all times
    - Zombies, vampires and demons are all real and we need a "Ministry of the Supernatural"

    These PC arguments are a collective insult to human intelligence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 844.

    While we're on the subject, can we ban people upvoting their own comments. It's so obvious when people do it and a bit pathetic tbh.

  • rate this

    Comment number 843.

    We witches are are also given a very hard time when it comes to costumes at halloween, and there are probably as many of us as there are "Mental Patients" (though a lot more of us got burnt throughout history)- but I don't see anyone standing up for us!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 842.

    Is the photo at the top Michael Jackson?

  • Comment number 841.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 840.

    Some of these comments attempt humour - for those with no first hand experience of mental health issues.

    But for those of us who work in mental health, they are not funny. They demonstrate how far we still have to go and reinforce stereo types.

    I shall now have to ensure no newspaper with this article is left lying around the care home because I know of three residents who will be scared by it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 839.

    They are just costumes of film characters which they don't have the rights to use the names....

    It's political correctness gone mad.... sorry that any more for fear of offending the mentally ill!

  • rate this

    Comment number 838.

    Yet another benign topic to discuss is the issue that serious or even offensive, get over it Halloween is just a bit of fun.
    The ban everything brigade seem to be out in force on this one, time to go and build a Wicker man in the garden.

  • rate this

    Comment number 837.

    No change from Normal on HYS there are always deranged swivel eyed loons featuring on this website.

    Next Week they get to hold their Party Conference.

  • rate this

    Comment number 836.

    Adam Linley
    Glad to see that while 'mental patient' outfits are deemed inappropriate, the entirely appropriate sexy schoolgirl outfits are still available! Sigh..."

    How predictable! Schoolgirls can be over the age of consent. Some of them actually ARE sexy. Have you never heard of fantasy? No doubt anyone who finds a schoolgirl outfit sexy (even a schoolboy?) is a raging paedophile?

  • rate this

    Comment number 835.

    On the one hand, it's raised awareness of mental health stigma and stereotyping, which can only be a good thing; on the other, it's invoked the ire of the 'PC gone mad' types, which can undermine a cause. maybe we need to be more conscious about ALL stereotyping. FWIW I don't like inflatable fat chick suits either, OR the US interpretation of Hallowe'en, which began as Samhain in this country.


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