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National Alliance on Mental Illness
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NAMI StigmaBusters Alert: May 28, 2004

Contact: smarch@nami.org

Disney's "Home on the Range"

Parents taking their children, including those struggling with bipolar disorder, to see and enjoy the Disney-distributed animated film, "Home on the Range," were appalled at a scene in the film described by one mother as follows:

It is a wonderful film for the family, except for the comment the main cow, Maggie, makes about the horse named Buck. As Buck gets excited about an idea and runs past them at a wildly frantic pace, she says, "Yep, he’s bipolar all right, definitely bipolar."

My middle son was seated next to me. He sunk down in his seat a little. I leaned over and said, "They have no idea what ‘bipolar’ is, do they?" He agreed with me, but stayed sunken into his seat. You see, he is bipolar. We live it everyday. To have it just thrown in our faces—as if anyone who is overtly excited about something is bipolar—is not acceptable."

NAMI StigmaBusters sent a fax with the above quote to Michael Eisner, the CEO of Disney Corp., requesting that this language be deleted from the DVD, and asking for a response in time for this StigmaBusters alert. No answer has been received.

TAKE ACTION: Contact Disney and let them know how such comments affect young people struggling with bipolar disorder and contribute to the pervasive public stigma.

Address the letter to:

Michael Eisner, CEO
Disney Corp.
500 So. Buena Vista St.
Burbank, CA 91521
Fax number: (818) 560-1300

Points to use in your message:

  • Many of NAMI’s 220,000 family members have children diagnosed with bipolar disorder. These parents take their children to the movies not to be demeaned, but to ENJOY Disney animated films.
  • The U.S. Surgeon General has declared that the entertainment industry, in films depicting mental illness, can help the public learn that it is treatable and that suicide is preventable: "In your shows, you have a greater ability to disseminate information and attitudes than we (health workers) do alone. However, one mental health problem largely ignored by the media has been teen suicide. Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for Americans ages 15 to 24, far outnumbering murders and deaths from AIDS. Suicide is very much a silent public health issue."
  • The President’s Commission on Mental Health and the Resource Center to Address Discrimination and Stigma (ADS Center), part of the Center for Mental Health Services of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, have placed a high priority on erasing the stigma and stereotypes that reinforce public prejudice and discrimination.
  • One in five individuals will suffer a severe mental illness during their lifetime.
  • As a responsible corporation that produces and distributes films internationally for children to enjoy, we ask you to please delete the offensive language diagnosing the prancing horse: "Yep, he's bipolar all right, definitely bipolar," from the DVD.
  • We don’t believe you would allow such a comment about Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, diabetes, or other illnesses.
  • For your further information: A recent study, "Mental Illness in Disney Animated Films," published in the May 2004 issue of the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, indicates that stigmatizing references to mental illness are pervasive in Disney animated films. Researchers at the University of Calgary studied 34 Disney animated films and found that most contained references to mental illnesses, with characters who were described as "crazy," "nuts" and "mad" and then shunned.
  • We hope you will consider this information seriously and help abate the unwarranted stigma and discrimination against young people with a mental illness, be it bipolar disorder or depression, so they will go for treatment instead of committing suicide.

MORE ABOUT MCDONALD’S:

We expressed our dissatisfaction with the response received from McDonald’s concerning our protests about the "voices" ad. We told them:

"We admire McDonald’s fine programs of social responsibility. However, that has only increased our amazement -- and -- dissatisfaction with the response made to our complaint about your insensitive radio ad about "voices."

You may do the same: Resend your message about this radio ad to Anna Rozenich, McDonald’s Communications, fax: 630-623-8843.

 

Correction: In McDonald’s "Points to Mention" (from the April 28, 2004, StigmaBusters Alert), the third point listed should have read:

One in five Americans will suffer a severe mental illness during their lifetime.


JC CHASEZ ALBUM "SCHIZOPHRENIC" ON TOUR NOT A BIG FAN DRAW

A JC Chasez concert in New York’s Roseland Ballroom on May 13 drew just about 1,000 fans at a club which usually attracts more than 3,000.

The stage was set with padded walls and JC’s band members wore hospital scrubs to establish a mental institution background for his tour to publicize his new solo album, "Schizophrenic." JC wore a white jacket and pants replacing the white straitjacket shown on his album cover as described in our April Alert protest.


And Here Is Some Good News:

From a 16-year-old student, who watches a program called "Channel One News" every morning in his school. This news program aired a two-part series on bipolar disorder in teens. The student wrote an article describing the series for the Child & Adolescent Bipolar Foundation, which printed his article in their newsletter. The article can be found at http://www.imakenews.com/cabf/e_article000252238.cfm

The student says, "The show gave me the strength to tell my peers about my bipolar. It helped educate normal teens about bipolar and therefore it helped reduce and prevent the spread of stigma. Channel One News should be commended for their story and efforts to education teens." His article follows below.

 

CABF eBulletin

Newsletter of the Child & Adolescent Bipolar Foundation (www.bpkids.org)
Volume 5, Issue 3
Tuesday, April 27, 2004

"The Storm Within"

A Teen's Perspective

by Dan - former CABF Teen Volunteer

Permission was granted to NAMI by the Child & Adolescent Bipolar Foundation to reprint this article in its entirety.

Every morning in over 10,000 middle and high schools a syndicated newscast geared toward teens is aired called Channel One News. In most schools, students are required to watch the content, as they are later quizzed on the material.

On March 31, Channel One began a two part series on bipolar disorder called "The Storm Within." Having bipolar disorder myself, I was rather surprised and caught off guard when this program aired at my school, and I watched it with great attention. In the first part of the series, they featured a teenager diagnosed with bipolar disorder and her family. On the day this teen was being interviewed, she had decided to stop her medications because she felt she no longer needed them. Throughout the day, the camera was able to capture her mood swings, which ranged from mania to depression. They showed the medications she takes, and described how treatment and stability occur over time.

The second part of the segment aired the next day. This time they interviewed a teenager who was stable. This teen described how he cut himself when he was unstable, and how his moods changed. His mother recalled how she saw his grades begin to fall, and then realized she had relatives with bipolar. Her son was diagnosed with bipolar disorder as well. The segment also featured a teenager in Dr. Kiki Chang's research study, and Dr. Chang describing what the study was about and what they were hoping to find. The program ended showing the first teenager graduating from high school and going on to college, living a normal life.

Both segments were very well produced. They couldn't have depicted bipolar disorder in teenagers any better than they did. They showed that bipolar disorder is hard to live with, but that it is also possible to be stable and live a normal life.

The segments were rather well received among students in my school. Though some kids pointed and laughed and thought it was funny, others were asking teachers more questions about the disorder. All in all, students were listening and they did see, or at least hear, what was being presented, no matter what the reaction. At the end of the series, I informed my homeroom that I had bipolar disorder, and that everything they saw was what I've been through and I go through on a constant basis. I believe my statement brought the series down to their everyday life to a level they can understand. I firmly believe that the series presented by Channel One educated teenagers, and at the same time, made it easier for teens with bipolar disorder to be around their friends knowing that their friends know what bipolar is about.


A NEW FILM FOR YOUR REACTION:

Check your local film directory for "Stateside," playing this week at selected theatres. In this film, a rebellious teenager on leave from the Marines falls in love with a female musician, but the relationship is threatened when she develops a mental illness.

We have received good reports about how the film portrays this situation. "Stateside"was released on May 21, 2004, and is distributed by Samuel Goldwyn Films.


FROM OUR INBOX:

We have received your reports of outrage about the final episode of Hope and Faith (ABC-TV). The series has been renewed for next season. However, the production office is closed until July l when they start the new episodes. We will contact the producer and creator at that time to inform them about the need to decrease, not increase, stigma in television sitcoms and the need to replace stereotypes with accurate portrayals and language. We will keep you informed.


Meanwhile, remember the NAMI National Convention is drawing closer by the month.

The dates are September 8-12, 2004, at the Washington Hilton. You will be able to hear nationally recognized expert presenters and visit the Capitol to inform your congressperson and senators about NAMI family and consumer needs. Visit the NAMI Web site, www.nami.org, and click on "2004 national convention" for full details about registration and hotel accommodations at the Washington Hilton.

Thank you for your messages of appreciation. We in turn appreciate your eyes and ears that bring us print and film media and product merchandisers to contact. To join or rejoin StigmaBusters, visit www.nami.org/stigma.

Stella March, National Coordinator
NAMI StigmaBusters

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