Park challenged over ‘asylum’ maze
Wednesday 30th October 2013, 12:10AM GMT.
A student mental health nurse will today deliver a 5,500-name petition to a theme park, calling for it to rename a “stigmatising” Halloween attraction.
Mental health campaigners are demanding officials at Thorpe Park in Surrey change the name of its horror-themed The Asylum maze.
The tourist attraction has defended the maze, which promises thrill-seekers a “chaotic environment of noise and light” as part of its seasonal fright night programme.
But groups including the charity Rethink Mental Illness have accused the park of reinforcing damaging stereotypes.
Student nurse Katie Sutton, who started a petition on campaign site Change.org, believes the attraction is perpetuating negative stereotypes by linking scary imagery with the mentally ill.
Ms Sutton, who will deliver the petition, said: “It’s time we all took a stand against this sort of lazy and damaging stereotyping.
“It’s completely irresponsible that a brand as high profile as Thorpe Park would link mental illness with this kind of outdated nonsense.
“Thorpe Park has said that they haven’t received many complaints – so we’re taking the thousands of signatures to their door to show them how many people think The Asylum maze must go.”
In a statement issued last week, Thorpe Park defended the maze as a very small element of an event aimed at adult visitors.
A spokeswoman for the park said: “This maze is also in its eighth year of operation and is an obviously extreme and simulated experience which draws on classic horror film content.
“It is not intended, nor is it deemed to be by those who have actually experienced it, to be in any way offensive or to be a realistic portrayal of mental health or indeed any other institution.”
Last month supermarket giant Asda was forced to withdraw a fancy dress costume, described on their website as “a mental patient”, which featured someone covered in blood and brandishing a machete.
The Halloween costume, which is designed to look like a blood-splattered straitjacket with ragged edges, was on sale for #20 through the supermarket’s clothing arm George.
But it was pulled after an online backlash on Twitter from several people who labelled it insensitive and demeaning.