Dockyard says it’s sorry for offensive party advertising

VENUE Action Stations in the Historic Dockyard
VENUE Action Stations in the Historic Dockyard
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A DOCKYARD attraction has apologised for making light of mental health problems in its advertising for a ‘fright night’ party.

Action Stations in the Historic Dockyard has drawn fire after publicising a Halloween event on October 25 in which people were urged to ‘enter the asylum’ and meet some of the most ‘disturbed and dangerous patients’.

But this has sparked fury at its insensitive portrayal of mental health patients.

David Billingham, 54, of Frensham Road, Southsea, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1984.

He said: ‘As someone who suffers with bipolar disorder, and who has had to be admitted to St James’ Hospital, and other psychiatric hospitals, I object to this in the strongest possible terms.

‘The whole concept was ignorant, prejudiced, offensive and ill-considered, and the most prestigious tourist attraction in our city should know better.

‘As a world heritage site, the dockyard should be aiming to set international standards in terms of sensitivity to the large proportion of the population with experience of mental illness.’

And Emma Royce, 32, of Cosham, was also disgusted.

She said: ‘It’s disgraceful the way they say “disturbed and dangerous patients”, as this discriminates against people with mental health problems.

‘Mental problems are an illness, not a matter to be laughed at, or to be used as entertainment for a Halloween night.

‘This is putting people with mental health problems in the same category as monsters. “Enter the asylum” is suggesting to come in and let the poke fun at people with mental health problems.

‘What sort of image is this giving the public? It is time to come out of the dark ages.’

Solent NHS Trust provides community and mental health services to the Portsmouth area and says that one in four people will experience a mental health problem in their lives.

Matthew Hall, its operations director for adult mental health, said: ‘Describing people with more serious mental health problems as “disturbed and dangerous” is insulting and very misleading.

‘I’m dismayed that in 2013, anybody thinks portraying grotesque images of mental illness for entertainment and profit is appropriate.

‘This type of depiction only fuels the discrimination people with mental health problems can suffer and re-enforces stereotyping.

‘We would invite organisers of this Halloween event to meet us and see for themselves that mental health illness is far removed from the image that they are presenting.’

Since receiving complaints on its Facebook page, Action Stations has now removed all references to an ‘asylum’ night, and apologised for any offence caused.

General manager Kerry Jarvie said: ‘Action Stations is sorry its publicity for its Fright Night event has caused offence. The material has been immediately withdrawn.

‘This event is in its second year and continues the theme along the storyline of a zombie outbreak, regrettably this information was not clearly portrayed in our marketing for the event.

‘However, given recent publicity surrounding controversial Halloween outfits, our advertising should have made the event theme clearer.

‘We’d like to offer our sincere apologies.’