Update: as of 10/23/17 OSA responded positively to the concerned raised by PEERS and other community groups about the “Deranged” event. OSA independently decided to rebrand the event as a “Haunted House.” 

PEERS strongly objects to the Oakland School for the Arts “Deranged” haunted house event scheduled for next week. We call on the relevant stakeholders to cancel it and issue an apology.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 25% of the United States population has a mental health diagnosis and 50% will have a mental health experience at some point in their lives. Over 65 million Americans visited primary care providers for mental health concerns in past year alone. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 15 and 35 — a demographic that no doubt includes the majority of Oakland School for the Arts students.

Events like “Deranged” perpetuate the stigma surrounding mental health experiences. These sorts of events falsely portray mental health consumers as violent and incapable of self-determination, when in reality those with mental health experiences are significantly more likely to be victims of violence than the general population.

It’s astoundingly disappointing that a city as culturally aware and diverse as Oakland can still be host to such an insensitive and hurtful event. People don’t choose their mental health any more than they choose their skin color. We’re making progress on eradicating mental health stigma, but there’s still a long, long way to go.