SINGAPORE: A Halloween display showing a mannequin hanging from a tree at *SCAPE has been taken down in the wake of criticism that it was “distasteful”.
The female doll, with long hair and a blood-soaked gown, had been tied on a tree near outdoor stalls at the youth-oriented hangout along Orchard Road.
Some netizens complained that it glorified the idea of suicide.
A post on the Facebook group Singaporeans Defending Marriage and Family said the display was “extremely disturbing and done in very bad taste and traumatising to children”.
It urged people to write in to the National Youth Council CEO David Chua, who is the chairman of the board of directors for *SCAPE.
“In view of the rising suicide rate and prevalence of suicidal thoughts among young people, the image of a person who appears to have hanged herself being used to promote fun Halloween activities would surely trivialise the issue of suicide among young people,” the post said.
It added that it might encourage youth to attempt suicide “especially during this examination season where many already face stress, anxiety, or even depression”.
One parent, Mrs Penny Tan, who has three kids aged between 15 and 23, shared the sentiment. “I feel this image of a hanging woman is extremely disturbing and may trigger those with suicidal tendencies. I hope that organisations take more responsibility when putting up such displays to publicise their events. Halloween activities should not cause the public, especially children and vulnerable adults to feel traumatised and shocked.”
Other netizens also pointed out that the display is ill-timed given that it is Suicide Awareness Month in Singapore.
In an email reply to Channel NewsAsia, *SCAPE said the mannequin was installed as part of the Museum of Horror's publicity efforts. "We have received feedback about the mannequin, and after reviewing internally, we informed the vendor to have it removed from the open public area. We hope that the youths will still have an enjoyable Halloween experience at the Museum of Horrors,” it said.
In response to queries by Channel NewsAsia, executive director of suicide prevention centre SOS, Ms Christine Wong, said it was alerted to the matter by a member of the public on Wednesday morning.
SOS reached out to *SCAPE to advise them that it was an inappropriate depiction of suicide which may be traumatising for the young or vulnerable. The mannequin could also act as a trigger for those with past experience related to suicide, Ms Wong said.
SOS provided some guidelines for organisations to adhere to when rolling out Halloween events. These include not depicting suicides or the process of suicides explicitly or prominently. They should also ensure that suicide is not presented for entertainment purposes, it said.
Disclaimers or warnings of overly graphic or suicide-related content should also be put up appropriately.
In 2015, the number of teen suicides rose to a 15-year high, with 27 suicides involving people in the 10 to 19 age group, according to SOS. Last year, suicides involving youths aged 29 and below made up the highest proportion of the 429 suicides reported.
SOS launched its campaign for Suicide Awareness Month on Wednesday. The crux of the campaign puts a spotlight on the way millennials make light of suicide, especially on social media.
Some examples include: “The weather is so hot I want to die”, “If the train delays again I might kill myself”, “My Wi-Fi is down. #killmenow”