Asda and Tesco withdraw Halloween patient outfits

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

Related Stories

Supermarket chains Tesco and Asda have withdrawn two Halloween outfits after they were criticised for stigmatising people with mental health issues.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"[The costume] should never have been sold and it was withdrawn as soon as it was brought to our attention."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It is understood the costume had been on sale through Asda's clothing outlet George for two days, before being withdrawn from sale on Wednesday morning following a complaint from a customer.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


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 894.

    Storm in a (Mad Hatter's) tea cup.

  • rate this

    Comment number 893.


    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."

    Absolute and complete tosh.

  • rate this

    Comment number 892.

    I think these were hilarious!
    But as always in our ****** up little world now, you can't say hello without offending someone.
    But hopefully this means Halloween is cancelled this year as it offends me when I have begging little brats pushed on my doorstep.

  • rate this

    Comment number 891.

    Mental health covers a huge spectrum of disorders both in terms of variety and debilitating impact.

    In terms of physical health disorders it is as broad as the gap between full-blown AIDS and a paper cut.

    Can we stop lumping all the crazies in together? I've suffered from depression since my teens but have never needed to be securely detained.

  • rate this

    Comment number 890.

    on a plus note for anyone having already bought one - it will no doubt get a good price on ebay!

  • rate this

    Comment number 889.

    I'm sure if the costume had been called crazed banker the PC brigade on here wouldn't have had an issue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 888.

    @863 - Best349

    Opiniated and talk rubbish? You mean EXACTLY how you are talking? Good example dumb dumb!

  • rate this

    Comment number 887.

    I have family with mental health issues, but I certainly don't find these offensive. It's not like they go around hacking people to death. People don't take offence to movies with psychotic people being sold, so why the big uproar about this? It's pathetic attention grabbing tactics by the charity, that's all. Next the WWF will be complaining about Werewolves being portrayed in a bad way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 886.

    Carrying on from my comment, I’ve suffered from mental illness the past 22 years; stress, depression, bi-polar, emotionally unstable personality disorder! I’m on medication as long as your arm. Thankfully these costumes are no longer for sale, but I would like to hear from the actual ‘makers’ of the costumes. What’s their option????

  • rate this

    Comment number 885.

    My wife has mental health issues and I have to keep her in a straight jacket, in a padded cell which used to be our cellar. She doesn't have an issue with this costume.

  • rate this

    Comment number 884.

    I am a psychopath. Was recently diagnosed with Schizophrenia too. I think that these halloween costumes are absolutely fine. It's halloween. It's a bit of fun and it's about people laughing at scary things like films and nightmares. Not actual people. Stop with the moral outrage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 883.

    I have suffered with severe OCD - a mental health issue for about 30 years and anyone who knows what goes through your mind will know it can be bad. However, I have no problem with ASDA selling this and think the uproar is ridiculous. What next? A ban on Alfred Hitchcock's 'Psycho' and every other horror film of the last 80 years? A ban on literature featuring the same? Wake up people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 882.

    If this offended Alaister Campbell it must be OK. All these charities are competing for your cash and publicity like this is manna from heaven to them. Don't be fooled.

  • rate this

    Comment number 881.

    Everything offends somebody and it is just too bad. The whole Halloween idea is of pagan origin and upsets some Christian groups. I'm sorry to see the supermarkets caving in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 880.

    2 Hours ago

    #529 said "It's just a costume!"

    Yes, it's just a costume that stigmatizes people for laughs. The costume is called MENTAL PATIENT for crying out load. How anyone can defend this is beyond me.
    Well there you go, the whole point in a nutshell, it is indeed beyond you. Not beyond everyone or someone, just you, so excuse the rest of us when we say It's just a costume!

  • rate this

    Comment number 879.

    320. Mishius

    What complete garbage. mental health is not a "no go area" ignorance should always be held up for what it is.

    Prejudice, discrimination, persecution, bigotry and general stigma will flourish in all areas where it exists if according to you, it should never be talked about

    By talking about the issue it is clearly sending the message that idiotic perceptions have no place in society

  • rate this

    Comment number 878.

    What a massive overreaction! People will make similar types of costumes for Halloween anyway! All these so called intelligent celebrities jumping on the bandwagon is typical. As many people have already said on this forum, all this overrreaction is making it an even more taboo subject

  • rate this

    Comment number 877.

    The coverage these products have gained is out of proportion to the issue involved. However, what it does illustrate is the generally poor levels of taste and understanding in our wider society - presumably right up to some moderately senior positions in our supermarket chains. If any more proof of that were needed just scan some of the very crude and tasteless greetings cards they sell.

  • rate this

    Comment number 876.

    I suffer with problems with my mental health .Most people understand mental illness these days and don't think I'm going to hack them to death with a machete believe it or not? This Halloween I thought id dress up as nurse Ratched from 1 flew over the cuckoos nest who is, of course, a fine example of the nursing profession and who I'm certain many people commenting here will approve of (shudders)

  • rate this

    Comment number 875.

    I have just telephoned Amazon to protest at their stocking of costumes portraying mentally ill people as likely to be killers. It is an entirely inaccurate and offensive portrayal of sufferers. There but for the grace of God go all of us and 1 in 4 of us will suffer from a mental disorder. I hope Tesco and Amazon also give a donation to a mental health charity as some sort of redress.


Page 17 of 61


More UK stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.