Halloween and mental health

 In years gone by Halloween wasn’t much of a ‘thing’ – perhaps there would be some candles, some treacle toffee if you were lucky, and a turnip lamp – but it wasn’t really celebrated the way that it is now.

Whether it’s from movies or a globalisation of what was once American culture, there’s no denying that Halloween is a big deal now – but not everyone is a fan.

For some people it’s a party – fun costumes, games with friends, sweets and treats, and staying up late to Trick or Treat, knocking on neighbourhood doors to ask for goodies.

But there are those who don’t get the same joy from the occasion; for whom the knocking on doors and shouting for treats is nothing but fear inducing.

Some people – those living with anxiety, those with PTSD, elderly people, people with dementia, sick people, anyone who has a heightened fight or flight response – can find their doorbell ringing very triggering.

It is an intrusion into their safe space, a jarring and fear inducing sound, a challenge to the usual security of the home. People jumping out of the dark in costumes, their faces hidden, is terrifying, their identities and motives hidden.

The trend of ‘trick’ pranks can be vandalism, causing mess and damage to their property if they don’t answer to give out sweets, and the fear of that can be overwhelming.

If you or your children are planning Trick or Treat adventures this Halloween please try to remember some of the basic courtesies which have become traditional too:

  • Only visit houses which are decorated – a lit pumpkin outside = welcome
  • If a house has no pumpkin outside, skip it!
  • Don’t stay out too late – set a curfew of 8pm, after which you shouldn’t visit homes
  • Only knock or ring the bell once – and if nobody answers, leave quietly (Maybe they are out of sweets – maybe they have smaller children who are going to bed – maybe they’ve simply had enough intrusion and want some peace)
  • Try to keep smaller children calm and quiet – no screaming in peoples doorways!

Try to remember that, although this is a fun holiday for you, and you’re having a great time in your costumes with family and friends, not everyone feels the same way – so be respectful, aware of the impact you may be having on those who are more vulnerable, and teach your children the basic rules above, so they can avoid inadvertently upsetting others too.

Another important factor to keep in mind this year, as the pandemic continues to impact lives, is that some homes may have positive Covid cases, others vulnerable people who are sheltering and could be put at risk by having a string of strangers ringing the doorbell bringing exposure to viral infections.

Many places are agreeing to skip the trick or treat traditions, and I know that’s sad for those who get so much pleasure from the adventure, and it’s yet another thing that our children might be missing out on as a result of the pandemic – but protecting people’s lives is the first priority, and it’s everyone’s responsibility. Even without Covid, you should be mindful of the impact you could be having on the more vulnerable members of your community, and of being alert to their needs.

If this time of year brings you any challenges, or triggers any kind of past trauma that you feel you could benefit from support with, please do get in touch; you can contact me through this website, through FacebookLinkedIn or email on amandaburbidge-counselling@outlook.com, or call me on 07849 037095 – you can also message or call via WhatsApp on the same number, and I offer video sessions for those who are still unable to meet in person. I can help – you don’t have to struggle alone, and our work together is completely confidential.