Active Minds scares away stigma of mental illness

Kent State’s Active Minds chapter taught students how Halloween can be triggering at its event, Scare Away Stigma, on Tuesday. 

Halloween can be a time of fun while dressing up with friends and going out. But for some people, the holiday can be a stressful time, as it produces stigmas and phobias. Some costumes can promote certain types of stereotypes and can be discriminating to certain communities.

“When people think of Halloween, they kind of overlook these issues that I would say, affects more people than we realize,” Kayla Marker, a junior criminology and justice studies major and president of Kent State’s Active Minds chapter, said. “So I really just wanted to bring awareness to these things because just being mindful of what you wear, being on the lookout for someone who might be affected by what other people do, is really easy to talk to people about.”  

A costume based on mental illness, such as a patient in a straight jacket, can promote the idea that people with mental illnesses are dangerous. Even though, according to

“People with severe mental illnesses are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population.”                                                                                                   

The event had different stations set up teaching students over three subjects including Halloween triggers, Halloween costume stigma and mental illness in movies. 

Each station had a poster covering different examples of the subjects.

For example, Halloween triggers are scary movies, spooking someone, jump scares, graphic costumes, flashing lights and loud noises.

This station gave steps to help yourself or someone else with their triggers; such as removing yourself or them from the situation and reassure them that they are safe. 

If you know the person and you see the trigger before they do, try to distract them from it. Even if you don’t know the person and notice they are struggling, help them by removing them from the situation and changing the conversation away from the topic. 

The event also had fun, stress free activities built into the learning experience. You could paint pumpkins with friends, decorate cookies and make playdough with essential oils.   

“So far we have decorated sugar cookies and right now we’re painting pumpkins,” Heather Henley, a senior psychology major attending the event with her friend, said. “But when we first came in we went to all the different tables and (at) each one they kind of tell you a little about the stigma around Halloween.” 

If you went to every station, you received a goodie bag filled with candy and a handout with the resources for mental health on campus.

“There are a lot of different resources on campus that students aren’t aware of…Most students either don’t know about them or (aren’t going to) utilize them” Sarah Adkins, a graduate student majoring in public health, said. “So I think that Active Minds allows for more (of a) community approach.”

Contact Ryanne Locker at [email protected].