Two of the U.K.’s largest supermarket chains have apologized for selling Halloween costumes that let trick-or-treaters dress up as “mental patients.”
The costumes were advertised on the chains’ web sites. The offering from the retail chain Adsa, which retailed for £20, or about $32, was advertised as “Mental Patient Fancy Dress Costume.” Pictured at right, it depicted a blood-covered man with unkempt hair and a chalk-white face wearing a straitjacket and holding a meat cleaver.
A costume advertised by the Tesco chain and selling for £18.45 (a little less than 30 bucks) was labeled, “Psycho Ward — Adult Costume.” The ad showed a man in an orange jumpsuit with a leather mask over the lower half of his face, similar to the Hannibal Lecter character in the film Silence of the Lambs. The man is holding a syringe.
"It is staggeringly offensive to the one in four of us affected by mental health problems and our families and friends, and troubling that some businesses are still so out of touch with the public mood," said Sue Baker, director of Time to Change. The organization combats the stigma still placed by society on people who suffer mental health ailments.
The retailers were contrite.
"[The costume] should never have been sold and it was withdrawn as soon as it was brought to our attention,” Adsa said in a statement Wednesday. "We're deeply sorry one of our fancy dress costumes has upset people."
The company said it would donate £25,000 ($40,335) to the British mental health charity Mind.
Tesco also issued an apologetic statement.
"We're really sorry for any offense this has caused and we are removing this product from sale," the company said.
"We are trying to change attitudes towards mental illness so people do not stigmatize it and something like this comes along and it just reminds you we are basically still in the Dark Ages,” said Alastair Campbell, a former communications director for the prime minister.
Campbell has been open in discussing his own struggle with mental health issues.
The costume flap is the second recent black eye for both companies. Earlier, both Adsa and Tesco were discovered selling horse meat labeled as beef.
SOURCES: BBC News, Reuters, Channel 4 News