Dear Scare for a Cure,
I never thought I would be writing a letter like this. I’ve always laughed at politically incorrect jokes and tend to take life not so seriously, but we have something we need to discuss. I see the theme for your haunted house this year is “Dread Asylum”, a spooky “insane” asylum with demented doctors and unnerving patients in straight jackets.
I am like the other 43.7 million Americans who suffer from a mental illness. Portraying people with mental illness as scary and dangerous is not okay. Portraying treatment for a mental illness as terrifying will prevent people from getting the help they need. It is actions like this that reinforce the stigma surrounding mental illness, something we need to fight, not contribute to.
When I was first diagnosed, I was ashamed and afraid to seek help. I didn’t want to be thought of as “crazy” and was afraid of what the treatment would entail. I had several attempts on my own life that resulted in an inpatient psychiatric hospitalization. It wasn’t the haunting, terrifying experience you portray in your Youtube trailer. I wasn’t dragged kicking and screaming by men in white coats or strapped to a chair and tortured like your video shows. Going to the hospital saved my life and saves countless others. Watching that video make me physically sick, which if that is what you are going for, good for you.
You are a non profit organization and this year are donating your funds to the Breast Cancer Resource Center of Central Texas. How would you feel if the theme was a scary cancer treatment center? It could have creepy doctors performing unwanted mastectomies and shaving people’s hair off. You could be chased by deranged women in pink ribbons distraught over the effects of chemotherapy and their pending prognosis. What you have done is no different. The same number of Americans die from suicide as by breast cancer each year, but suicide is completely preventable. Your spooky “Dread Asylum” only makes those fighting a mental illness battle even harder.
You cannot measure the damage your event has done to the greater community and will continue to do if you do not make changes.I am asking you to do 3 things:
1. Write a formal apology to the mental illness community on your website and in the Austin American Statesman newspaper
2. Stop all functions in the current Dread Asylum theme while you re-brand your experience
3. In addition to your donations to the Breast Cancer Resource Center of Central Texas, make a donation to the National Association for Mental Illness Austin Chapter.
Stopping services may seem too costly, but what about the cost of the shame and guilt suffered from increasing the stigma surrounding mental illness? Or even one more person taking their life because they were too afraid to ask for help?
I have always been a fan of your organization and your work, please don’t let me down now.
Bridget Regan Kolek