National Alliance on Mental Illness
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STIGMABUSTERS ALERT: April 13, 2004
The Fox TV series "Cracking Up" goes off after episode six on May 5. Five remaining episodes may be aired this summer, but renewal is deemed unlikely.
Feedback on JC Chasez Album
Sales count: JC’s new album is not doing well on sales. The March 13 Special StigmaBusters Alert protested this album for its title, "Schizophrenic," and its cover featuring JC in a straitjacket. Your volume of e-mail caused some recipients to close their inboxes. However, your messages have made them aware of their outrageous, insensitive offense.
Chasez said through a representative: "I apologize to anyone I may have offended with the title and cover of my album. I took artistic license . . . as it was in reference to the wide range of music styles in the album."
Opening more minds about the misuse of this medical term...
CHANGING OUR STYLEBOOK ON USE OF 'SCHIZOPHRENIC'
It began with a review: "When restaurants divide their menus into home-style and upscale offerings, it often leads to culinary schizophrenia, a state in which the eatery doesn't seem to know what it wants to be."
Pam Fiore, whose brother has struggled with schizophrenia for 35 years, first objected.
"With a newspaper as progressive as The Statesman, how is it that the misuse of the word schizophrenia is missed repeatedly? As devastating a disease as schizophrenia is, to lightly banter the word about is insensitive at best, demoralizing and hurtful at worst."
Yet Webster's Collegiate Dictionary justifies the critic's use "contradictory or antagonistic qualities or attitudes."
Advocacy groups frequently campaign against usages they consider insensitive. We routinely defend usage accepted by a dictionary, and initially I did here. I was wrong.
American-Statesman copy chief Russell Roe changed my mind. "Favoring precision over informal usage, I wouldn't have allowed the 'split personality' reference if it had crossed my desk," he said. "I've long heard warnings against using schizophrenic to mean 'of two minds' or conflicted. That's not a characteristic of schizophrenia."
The New York Times' Stylebook reads: "Schizophrenia is a mental illness often characterized by episodic disorientation, delusions and hallucinations. It is not characterized by a split personality, and the word schizophrenic does not mean two-faced, of two minds or self-contradictory."
A good argument came in from Susan Mulcahy, a mental health volunteer: "If a restaurant offered a strong group of appetizers and entrees at the top of the menu, but a weak selection of desserts at the bottom, you wouldn't write that the menu was paraplegic. If all of a restaurant' selections were plain and simple, you sure wouldn't call the menu mentally retarded. Yet it somehow seems OK to call a restaurant's menu schizophrenic. For some mysterious reason, it is still socially acceptable to refer to mental illnesses in a demeaning way that is not acceptable for other illnesses."
Finally, I called a woman who has schizophrenia, Diana Kern, 48, who is on medications and lives a normal life. Fifteen years ago, she suffered delusions of sight and sound.
She said people should understand that schizophrenia is an illness, disease of the brain. "It has nothing to do with character or personality."
We are changing our stylebook to state that "schizophrenic" shouldn't be used to mean "of two minds."
Kudos to Editor Rich Oppel…and to Diana Kern, Public Policy Coordinator, NAMI Texas, for bringing the article to our attention.
Eliminating Mental Health Stigma in Schools
Mental health professionals, educators and administrators are invited to participate in a free training session on "Training Educators to Eliminate Stigma and Discrimination in High Schools." This telephone training will be presented on
Date: Tuesday April 20, 2004
Time: 4:00pm - 5:15pm (Eastern Time)
This session is sponsored by the Resource Center to Address Discrimination and Stigma (ADS Center), a project of the Center for Mental Health Services of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The session is free to participants.
To register for this teleconference, please reply via e-mail to email@example.com indicating that you want to participate. Please keep the subject heading as it is here
(ADS Center Teleconference).
After responding to this invitation, participants will receive confirmation by e-mail and an online link to presentation materials and log-in instructions for the teleconference.
For more information, contact Jennifer Melinn at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please feel free to pass this invitation on to others who might be interested.
REMINDER OF STIGMABUSTERS GUIDELINES FOR ALL REPORTS:
Please provide specific details: when and where you read, saw, or heard the stigma situation, including the name of the newspaper/magazine and publication date; the product and/or advertiser; the TV network or show it ran on, etc. We need these details to check it out.
When in doubt, do not hesitate to report the situation for our evaluation.
We receive many requests to protest local situations. However, NAMI StigmaBusters Alerts focus on high profile situations on national media, in print and on film.
We recommend the following approaches that have been successful in communities across the country dealing with local stigma:
* Contact immediately and directly the newspaper editor, radio/ TV station manager, and advertisers. They want to keep their local customers.
* Provide specific information about the offensive language and/or portrayal, including where and when sighted.
* Contact your state organization and local NAMI affiliate to join in reaching the officials responsible for reinforcing the stigma and discrimination against persons with mental illness.
STIGMA ON THE INTERNET
The Internet does not have any official oversight, rules or regulations. We choose to deal only with responsible organizations or corporations on the Internet who provide contacts for public input. It may be a customer service person who takes the complaint or it may be made on their Web site "contact us" e-mail. They do not respond directly, but they do consider the complaint when creating future product names, promotional ads, etc.
USE OF LANGUAGE
* We do not protest usage of single words like "crazy" "psycho" "wacko" or "loony" unless they refer directly to individuals struggling with mental illnesses or to the illness itself.
* "Schizophrenic" to describe a split decision made by Congress or any organization has become part of our cultural language. However, its misuse is being heard and corrected by many in the public arena.
* We protest calling a person a "schizophrenic": NAMI policy calls for PEOPLE FIRST: people, persons, individuals with a mental illness, schizophrenia, bipolar, clinical depression, OCD, panic disorder.
Although we cannot respond to every message, we do read and research your reports about stigma, and appreciate your support of our ongoing efforts to eliminate the prejudice and discrimination. Numbers count! You may sign up for the Alerts by clicking on www.nami.org/Stigma
Stella March, National Coordinator