National Alliance on Mental Illness
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StigmaBusters Alert: November 2003


NAMI New Jersey once again has confronted one of the most hateful examples of stigma in the nation.In a popular Website devoted to NJ political news,, the Camden County Democratic Committee posted a paid political advertisement attacking an incumbent state senator, William Gormley.

"Gormley Medication Not Working," the ad proclaimed. "Let’s Send Him Away Before They Take Him Away." It included a photograph of a man in a straitjacket.

Stigmabusters may recall that Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage this summer responded to criticism from former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich by saying: "It’s clear that Mr. Gingrich is off his meds and out of therapy." In that instance, a Republican attacked a Republican. In this case, Camden County Democrats have demonstrated that prejudice and discrimination have no political boundaries.Personal attacks that use the stigma associated with brain disorders to discredit political opponents are unacceptable—no matter what the party.

Please contact the Camden Democratic Committee to demand a public apology by the Committee and all its candidates now running for public office. Key message points include:

  • Former President Clinton, President Bush and the U.S. Surgeon General all have called for the elimination of stigma as a matter of national policy. The advertisement raises serious questions about the committee’s commitment not only to public health policy, but also civil rights, particularly for people with disabilities.
  • No one would ever dare run such an advertisement attacking a candidate for heart disease, diabetes, paraplegia, or other medical conditions.
  • Straitjackets project extremely painful images for people who have suffered exceptional trauma during a mental illness. They also represent a cruel, atypical stereotype that perpetuates stigma and discourages people from getting help when they need it.
  • One out of every five Americans experiences a mental illness at some point in their lifetime. Members of the Camden County Democratic Committee and their families are not immune. Americans have a right to expect a higher level of debate.

Please contact immediately:

Camden County Democratic Committee
2020 Springdale Road, Suite 200
Cherry Hill, New Jersey 08003
Phone: 856-424-5757
Fax: 856-424-5511


Good work troops!

In our last StigmaBuster Alert, we asked that people contact Roger Ebert, celebrated movie critic for the Chicago Tribune, who had used the terms "whacko" and "nut case" in an otherwise favorable review of "Matchstick Men," in which Nicholas Cage plays a character with an obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Ebert has since apologized.

"I received a lot of protests about the use if those terms," he responded on the "Answerman" section of the Tribune’s Web site . "I was describing the specific character, not mental illness in general, but you make a valid point and I will reform."


Virginia Holman, author of "Rescuing Patty Hearst: Memories From a Decade Gone Mad," who was honored with a NAMI Literary Award this year, recently was named a Mental Health Journalism Fellow of the Carter Center in Atlanta for 2003-2004.

Holman is seeking candidates to interview who are the children of parents with schizophrenia. Individuals selected will be profiled in an article about their experiences growing up with a parent with schizophrenia. Candidates need to meet three requirements:

  • The parent must have a formal diagnosis of schizophrenia. Documentation is required.
  • As a child or adolescent, the interviewee must have resided with the parent at least five years following diagnosis. Documentation also may be required.
  • Candidates must not have told their story previously either through public-speaking or any other media interview.
  • StigmaBusters are asked to help spread the word. Please share this notice with anyone who may be an appropriate candidate. Interested candidates may contact Holman at


In order to overcome stigma—and the reluctance that many people feel about seeking help—one trend among mental health centers and other psychiatric facilities is to remove reference to mental health or mental illness from their names. The trend also may help reinforce the holistic perspective that "physical" and "mental" illnesses are not separate, but one and the same.

In Florida, the Marion-Citrus County Mental Health Center is changing its name to "The Centers: Rebuilding Hope," which helps to emphasize its diverse counseling, substance abuse, and mental illness treatment programs—as well as a central element for recovery For more information about the change, see this article, which connects to the "Mental Illness in the News" section of NAMI’s new Web site under the "Budget and Policy" topic category (Click on "All Headlines").


Have you browsed NAMI new Web site yet? Features on the homepage change every day. The "Mental Illness in the News" section also publishes newspaper articles from around the country and the world every day. It’s the best place on the Internet to stay informed about current events and trends related to mental illness, treatment and policy issues.


Together, we can make a difference.

Stella March
StigmaBusters Coordinator

With more than 220,000 members and 1200 state and local affiliates, NAMI is the nation's largest grassroots organization dedicated to improving the lives of people with severe mental illnesses.

Funding sources for NAMI programs include hundreds of state and local governments and foundations; tens of thousands of individual donors; and a growing number of corporations. NAMI's greatest asset, however, is its volunteers, who donate an estimated $135 million worth of their time each year to education, support and advocacy. NAMI does not endorse any specific medication or treatment.

Please forward this email if you know someone who might like to be added to our mailing list and join in speaking out against stigma. New subscribers to NAMIStigmaBusters Alerts may sign up at NAMI StigmaBuster Alerts are electronic newsletters provided free of charge as a public service. Contributions to support our work can be made on-line at or via regular mail. Please make checks payable to NAMI and send to P.O. Box 79972, Baltimore, MD 21279-0972, or donate through the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC #0538).