Hate Speech

Trigger or Treat: Halloween Is Filled With Uncomfortable Images

Halloween is all about frightening ourselves with death, dying, and the undead.



Triggers or Treats! Collecting candy corn on our street might be safer than a contemporary university celebration of Halloween, but surely not by much. At New York University's Law School only anodyne depictions of the ghastly are apparently permitted to mark the passage of All Souls Eve. Given the "open letter" below, the university administration might be allowed to show old Casper the Friendly Ghost cartoons, but perhaps ghosts are being marginalized since so many of us decline to believe in them and their struggles for recognition.

All kidding aside, suicide is indeed a serious issue. But the point of Halloween is to be transgressive. The Mental Health Law and Justice Association has a perfect free speech right to demand that people apologize for indulging the macabre, but the macabrists have a perfect free speech right to tell them to go to Hell.

If NYU's Dean Belk and Dean Morrison do, as demanded, issue a public apology concerning NYU's Fall Ball, they will be intellectual cowards who are giving in to moralistic bullies.

The open letter from the self-appointed scolds from the Mental Health Law and Justice Association is below:

Dear Dean Jason Belk and Dean Trevor Morrison, 

The Mental Health Law and Justice Association writes this open letter in order to express grave concern and outrage at the triggering, disrespectful, and harmful suicide imagery displayed at Fall Ball.

During last night's Fall Ball, which was organized by NYU Law's Office of Student Affairs, there were video projections on the windows inside of Greenberg Lounge of silhouetted people engaging in what we can only imagine were intended to be "spooky" activities. One of the images projected displayed a man dying by suicide. Because MHLJA follows the recommendations of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to not discuss suicide methods and firmly believes in publishing content that is safe for all members of our community, we will not provide any more details about the projection. However, members of our organization do have photographs of the images, should your administration need corroboration.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death on college campuses. Worldwide, someone dies by suicide every 40 seconds. For members of our community who have lost someone to suicide or who have had personal experiences, this topic is not a Halloween gimmick.

In addition to the suicide imagery, MHLJA condemns other projections displayed, which showed violence against women and interpersonal violence.

Our campus should be a safe space for all members of our community, particularly those who are most vulnerable. Violence and the difficult mental health challenges people face are not a joke, a gimmick, or a spectacle.

In addition to publicly expressing our concern, the Mental Health Law and Justice Association makes itself available to all members of our community who would like to find a safe and welcoming space to reflect on these issues. We encourage all who are interested to reach out to us by emailing [address deleted] or [address deleted]. We also encourage all students who may have been triggered yesterday to visit NYU Counseling and Wellness, located at 726 Broadway, 4th Floor, Suite 402. Walk-in hours are available today from 10am to 6pm, Saturday from 10am to 3pm, and Monday—Thursday 10am-8:30pm. At the end of this letter, you can also find a list of off-campus resources.

To all members of our community: If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, please seek help. You are important to us and we want you to stay.

Because we believe that this unfortunate situation is the result of the stigma surrounding mental health and widespread misunderstanding of suicide, the Mental Health Law and Justice Association will be hosting an event on suicide prevention at the law school. Anyone who would like to be involved in helping us plan this event can contact [address deleted] or [address deleted].

Dean Belk and Dean Morrison, we urge you to issue a public apology to all members of our community who may have been triggered and ask that you make a commitment to ensuring that all future events, communications, and programs are verified to avoid harm to members of the mental health community and those whose lives have been touched by suicide. The Mental Health Law and Justice Association makes itself available to the administration to discuss how this can be achieved moving forward.

In Solidarity,

The Mental Health Law and Justice Association 

Happy Halloween folks!