8 Creepy Halloween Costumes under $60 (That AREN’T a Mental Health Patient)

Mattie Kearse Image, white woman with blonde hair and red shirt with blue flower

By Mattie Kearse

Written by Mattie Kearse, medically reviewed by Melissa Shepard, MD

 As you overnight your last-minute Halloween costumes this year, we’d like you to consider leaving one on the shelf: the mental health patient.

There are a lot of problems with this costume.


It perpetuates the stigma that having a mental illness makes you scary, unpredictable, or violent. Actually, folks with serious mental illness are much more likely to be the victim of violent crimes than their peers without serious mental illness.


Sensationalizing mental health issues sends a message that people with serious mental illness belong on the fringes of society. Halloween costumes including straight jackets, blood-soaked hospital gowns, chains, and gaunt face makeup are harmful and misleading, especially in 2021. Even some aspects of characters like Batman’s the Joker and Harley Quinn are worthy of being re-examined.


Mental hospitals are not the violent torture chambers they are made out to be on American Horror Story or Riverdale (Would you want to be a patient at an asylum like the ones portrayed on TV?) Many

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of these fictionalized accounts are based on real historical horror stories, such as the rise and fall of the lobotomy, insulin comas, and violent physical therapies. But thankfully much-needed reform, improved ethical standards, and scientific advancements have made these barbaric practices a thing of the past.


Deinstitutionalization of the mental healthcare system also means that most patients who would have been confined to an “asylum” in the past are now in one of the few private or public mental hospitals left in the US, treated in the mainstream medical system, or – especially in the case of people of color with mental illness – in prison.


Our current mental healthcare system is not perfect, but continuing to exploit the mental health patient will only serve to perpetuate the myth that mental hospitals are scary, mentally ill people are scary, and mental illness is scary.


So this year we challenge you to be creative when planning your costume. If you want to really bring the spook, check out some of our DIY costume ideas below (all under $60!)


1. Corpse Bride


Thrifted wedding dress: $15


Zombie makeup kit: $12


Dramatic veil: $19


2. Swamp creature


Green leggings: $9+


Tank top: $9+


Fake seaweed: $18


Green slime: $5.72+


Green body paint: $7


3. Dead Squid Game player


Costume: $20


Fake blood: $11


dalgona set: $11


4. Coraline’s mom


Black dress: $33+


Black buttons: $6 for a pack of 10


Red lipstick: $2


5. Maleficent


Horns headpiece: $20


Black feather boa: $9


Black cloak: $17


6. Skeleton


Black bodysuit: $28+


White clothing paint: $4


Black and white face paint: $15


7. Us tethered


Red boiler suit, foam scissors and glove: $30


8. Ghost pirate


Gold coin necklace: $6


Belt corset: $17


Pirate bandana: $2


Pirate hat: $12


White makeup powder: $10


Thrifted flowy shirt & trousers: $10*


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