Culture

‘Asylum’ party booed

JARED BUTT, CONRAD CIOVICA, EMILY MACDONALD

Organisers of an ‘Asylum’ themed Halloween party to be held tonight say it will go ahead under its current name, despite criticism from mental health professionals.

With Halloween coming up on Monday, Monastery Nightclub, on High Street in Fremantle, will tonight play host to Jayelle Events’ ‘Asylum’ party.

Edith Cowan University Dean of Arts and former Head of Psychology Craig Speelman said the name of the party could harm people with mental illness.

“It does not help with the stigmatisation of mental health,” Professor Speelman said.

He said the party’s name could “further the stigma” and might prevent people with mental illness from seeking help.

Jayelle Events spokesperson Jessica Stevenson said the company wanted a “punchy” name that resonated with Halloween but it meant “no harm or had any bad intentions” when it chose ‘Asylum’.

Ms Stevenson disclosed that the company had received a complaint about the name during Mental Health Week earlier this month but it was too late for a name change.

“We already spent a lot of money on promotion and advertising so it was too late for us to make any changes,” she said.

The Black Dog Institute’s head of public affairs Gayle McNaught said the name could have a negative impact.

“Anything that mocks mental health will reinforce the negative stigma that surrounds it,” Ms McNaught said.

“By calling it Asylum they are simply reinforcing the negative connotations that come with it.

“Anything that focused on the stigma of mental health to promote an event is damaging.”

Fremantle city councillor Sam Wainwright also expressed concerns over the naming of the party.

“I would hope that [the organisers] asked mental health sufferers about the name when they were organising the event,” Cr Wainwright said.

Fremantle resident Kaylah Percel said despite being treated for mental illness in hospital previously she did not have a problem with the party’s name.

“They’re probably going off older asylums so I don’t really think it’s that offensive anymore,” she said.

Ms Stevenson said that Jayelle Events was unaware that one of the port city’s main heritage landmarks, the Fremantle Arts Centre building, once known as the Fremantle Lunatic Asylum, is within walking distance of tonight’s party venue.

Ahead of Halloween in 2014, Western Independent revealed that Ambar night club in central Perth was planning an ‘Insane Asylum’ night. Our coverage of criticism over that name resulted in Ambar changing the name of that party to something less stigmatising.

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