I haven’t really touched on too many current events in the mental health community, but on Facebook I saw a call to action from mental health advocates asking to close a Halloween Exhibit at Knott’s Berry Farm because it was offensive to people suffering from mental illness.
Now if you know me, you know I have a genuine love for all things Halloween- so I’m not sure I agree with this outrageous claim, but at the same time found it interesting and worth writing about. This article goes farther into depth about it, but I will touch on the main points.
The exhibit includes a virtual reality world where you are running from a patient in a mental hospital named Katie. However, people do not like the way she is portrayed- she seems possessed, but obviously given she is in an asylum she is mentally ill.
Several patrons took to Twitter, expressing their grief for the mental health community. They believed the exhibit is demeaning to those who suffer from mental illness and called for it to be closed immediately. They also agree that things like this exhibit only add to the stigma of mental illness, and that it’s wrong to portray those who are mentally ill as evil- they believe the Halloween exhibit demonizes individuals with mental illnesses.
Knotts heard the cries of these advocates alongside fans of the park. They then released this statement:
“California’s Great America is proud of its popular annual Halloween Haunt event. For nine years we have delivered unique and immersive haunted experiences to our fans and loyal guests. Our evening attractions are designed to be edgy, and are aimed at an adult-only audience. Over the past week we have heard from a number of people expressing their concern that one of our temporary, Halloween attractions – FearVR – is hurtful to those who suffer from mental illnesses. Contrary to some traditional and social media accounts, the attraction’s story and presentation were never intended to portray mental illness. As it is impossible to address both concerns and misconceptions in the Halloween timeframe, at this time we have decided to close the attraction.”
Not only did they close it in one of their parks, but ended up closing the same attraction at another park in the US and one in Toronto.
You can visit the Knotts Berry Farm Halloween website and see not one trace of their former Halloween exhibit. Many have commended Knotts for closing the attraction. Should they have closed it? Was it insensitive to mentally ill people? I don’t think so, but it brings the conversation to mainstream media, and ultimately proves people are out there fighting against the stigma (though in this case, I feel they went too far.) Thoughts on this? Also, here’s another article with some more information about the attraction.