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NAMI StigmaBuster Alert: June 29, 2007

Virginia Tech

Since our last StigmaBusters alert, much of NAMI’s focus has been on issues flowing from the Virginia Tech tragedy in April, including concerns over stigma and discrimination.

NAMI testified before Congress about stigma and perceptions of violence associated with mental illness. Federal gun control laws currently prohibit people who have been “adjudicated as mental defectives” or “committed to a mental institution” from purchasing firearms.

On June 13, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to provide incentives to states to report people to the National Instant Background Check System, but the bill does nothing to correct the vague and stigmatizing language. 

NAMI supports efforts to keep guns out of the hands of people who are violent, but wants improvements in the law to eliminate stigma. Please send a message now to your Senators through NAMI’s Web site.

Mental Illness: The Right to Vote

New York Times article titled “States Face Decisions on Who Is Mentally Fit to Vote” (6/19/07) has heightened concerns over a possible trend toward exclusion as a result of Virginia Tech. But the issue actually is an old one, which arises occasionally when someone seeks to enforce existing provisions of state law that prohibit certain people with mental illnesses from voting. NAMI considers such laws to be unconstitutional.

For discussion of the issue, listen to NAMI’s advocacy on National Public Radio’s “Tell Me More (15 minutes) show in which “StigmaBusters” are mentioned twice.

A longer discussion (45 minutes) also is available in Wisconsin Public Radio’s “At Issue” archive (June 19 at 4PM).

Reader’s Digest: Normal or Nuts?

Many StigmaBusters were outraged by the tone of “Are You Normal or Nuts?” in the June 2007 issue of Reader’s Digest.

“There’s no such thing as normal” and “the line between quirk and crisis is very thin,” the article declared. People suffer from “anxiety, calm, depression, anxiety, and love” because we are all “human, flawed, and colorful in our own way.” But for some people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), it acknowledged, “the most effective treatment is a combination of antidepressants and behavioral therapy with a trained physician.”

Then in the July 2007 issue of the magazine, a humorous “word to the wise” appeared. “Manorexic”—a play on the word “anorexic”—was defined as “characterizing a man who eats an extremely large amount of food yet gains no weight.”

What do you think?

Is Reader’s Digest trivializing mental illness and contributing to stigma. Would a “quirky” article or humorous word play be published about cancer or diabetes? Or does  humor help promote education?


You Said It, Reader’s Digest
Box 200
Pleasantville, NY  10572-0200

“Worried about your quirk?” the magazine also has asked. “Submit your questions at for us to analyze in a future issue.” Maybe StigmaBusters should offer real questions based on real symptoms.

CANVAS:  Sailing Forward

NAMI has honored the movie CANVAS with an Outstanding Media Award for a dramatic motion picture. It is scheduled for release in theaters in October 2007, but successful, broad distribution depends on support and publicity from the grassroots.

Visit the movie’s Web site to see a preview and to sign up for updates in months ahead.

Please also contact the Oprah Winfrey Show and ask that the director and cast be interviewed on the show. It would help educate people about the real-life experiences of families who battle schizophrenia, promote the movie, and recognize extraordinary performances by Marcia Gay Harden, Joe Pantoliano, and Devon Gearhart who “got it right” in  their movie roles.

Personal notes sent by regular mail have the greatest impact. For stigma-busting, it could be the most important letter you write all year.

Ms. Oprah Winfrey
The Oprah Winfrey Show – Harpo Productions
110 North Carpenter Street
Chicago, Illinois 60607-2104

Out of the Inbox

Because of the large number of StigmaBuster emails received each month, NAMI cannot answer each individually, however, we appreciate every message and evaluate every stigma report, prioritizing them for action. We also appreciate receiving copies of replies from StigmaBuster targets.  They are important in helping to coordinate strategy and pursue genuine dialogue. You are our eyes and ears and your help makes a difference!

 To receive StigmaBuster Alerts directly in your inbox, visit, sign in, and check the box next to StigmaBusters.

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