Halloween. You may take this night (or month) to indulge in extreme self-expression, wearing something you normally wouldn't for a good scare.
While most costumes are harmless acts of self-expression, there are also many costumes that fuel harmful stereotypes about mental health and those in the community.
A few examples of such costumes and attractions seen in recent years include haunted houses presented as "insane asylums" where straight-jacketed patients terrorize visitors, "mental patient" Halloween costumes that depict mental illness as objects of fear and sexualized costumes that portray women with anorexia nervosa as "sexy skeletons".
People with mental health conditions make up a significant part of the population (one in four people).
I am one of those four.
Living with a mental illness can feel scary at times but it shouldn't provide inspiration for Halloween.
Mental illness is already subjected to a tremendous amount of stigma.
The stigma that is so strong that nearly two-thirds of people affected by them live in silence and go without treatment.
Even Halloween costumes that mock mental illness can easily contribute to already existing stigma and be a major barrier to treatment.
By wearing a costume others are being told that mental disorders are okay to laugh at, scary to have, and potentially violent or harmful to others. None of which are true.
So, how can you better support your mentally ill friends, family members, and even strangers on Halloween?
First off, make sure that your costume isn't offensive to marginalized groups of people or those living with mental illness.
Then if you see someone wearing a costume that's offensive remember that you're free to advocate for yourself or others and explain that it's not appropriate.
Lastly, continue to have open discussions past Halloween - whether it's in school, at the workplace, or among friends and family - about why stigma is so dangerous.