STORE bosses have apologised after fancy dress costumes went on sale that outraged mental health charities.
Asda, which has supermarkets in Hartlepool and Peterlee, and Tesco, which has stores in Hartlepool and Billingham, were forced to apologise and remove the items from sale.
Asda was selling a £20 “mental patient” outfit while Tesco had a “psycho ward adult costume” for sale at £18.45.
But both have now scrapped the costumes after sparking outrage with mental health charities nationwide.
The Asda outfit included clothing, fake blood, a mask and fake meat cleaver while Tesco’s orange boiler suit offered to “complete the look” with a machete.
Iain Caldwell, chief executive of mental health charity Hartlepool and East Durham Mind, said it was wrong that this stereotype was reinforcing negative views of the mentally-ill, but said he was glad the issue had been raised.
He said: “That type of image of the mad axeman mental illness patient is wrong.
“Statistically the majority of people with mental health experiences are just normal people experiencing stress, anxiety or depression and people with mental health problems commit less crimes than the general population.
“Help is available for people, but suicide rates are going up in other parts of the country and if they see that image they may think ‘I don’t want to be associated with that’.
Colin Thompson, project manager with Park Road-based Artrium, which works people with mental health and other needs, said: “There’s absolutely no need for it. It’s a disgrace because people have got a horrible idea of people with mental health and we are trying to eradicate the stigma out of it, but this doesn’t help.
“It’s a very debilitating illness and affects people differently – it could be sparked from losing a job or mortgage problems.”
An Asda spokeswoman said: “This was an unacceptable error and the product was withdrawn immediately. We’d like to offer our sincere apologies for the offence it caused.
“We take our responsibilities very seriously which is why we will make a sizeable donation to MIND.”
A Tesco spokesman said: “We’re really sorry for any offence this caused and have removed this product from sale.”