UPDATE: Controversial Show Ride Changed
25 September 2014 at 3:13 pm
The organisers of the Perth Royal Show have agreed to change the theme of a controversial ride after mental health organisations complained that it mocked people with mental illnesses.
The attraction – 'Bethlem Sanatorium' – which was condemned by SANE Australia and other groups, will now be called ‘Mayhem Manor’, with a haunted house theme and all references to mental illness removed.
The ride previously depicted an infamous London mental health asylum from the 17th century, with actors pretending to be patients with a mental illness, portraying them as objects of mockery and fear.
SANE Australia CEO Jack Heath said the leadership shown by Western Australia’s mental health organisations and representative bodies was key to advocating for the speedy resolution to this issue.
“We congratulate and thank Consumers of Mental Health WA Executive Director, Shauna Gaebler, for the work she has undertaken to represent all Western Australians living with a mental illness,” Heath said.
“Throughout this issue Shauna has been on the front foot, outlining the potential harm of the exhibit, lobbying for the removal of the ride.”
SANE Australia also recognised the work undertaken by WA Mental Health Commissioner Timothy Marney, WA Mental Health Minister Helen Morton and Western Australian Association for Mental Health President Alison Xamon.
“The Royal Agricultural Society of WA should be recognised for listening to the many voices representing people with a mental illness,” Heath said.
“We appreciate that there was no intention to cause harm in the staging of this attraction and we appreciate the timely decision on and action undertaken to rectify our concerns.”
Heath had previously called the ride offensive, saying it stigmatised mental illness and reinforced negative and inaccurate stereotypes.
“The depiction of people with a mental illness in this way has the potential to undo decades of work undertaken to improve community understanding and reduce the stigma, prejudice and discrimination people living with a mental illness face every day,” he said.
“SANE Australia appreciates that there was no intention to cause harm by the staging of this ‘attraction’ by the leadership of either the Perth Royal Show or Metcash but this ride has got to go.”
The Bethlem Institute was the first of its kind in Britain and was founded as a hospital in the 13th century. It was known for its cruel treatment of patients.
“As is evidenced by the many people who have contacted us so far, it is deeply offensive to people with mental health issues along with their families and friends,” Heath said.