National Alliance on Mental Illness
page printed from http://www.nami.org/
(800) 950-NAMI; firstname.lastname@example.org
NAMI StigmaBusters, with its dedicated advocates across the country, are successfully fighting the pervasive and damaging stigma that exists toward persons with mental illness.
NAMI StigmaBusters now number more than 5,000. Numbers do count, so let your voice be heard.
StigmaBusters Alerts Contents
1. Titus: An Update
2. Mysterious Ways: New NBC Series
3. The Trouble With Normal: New ABC Series
4. Psycho Pops Continued
5. Mania: Giorgio Armani’s New Perfume
6. Films for Release in 2001
7. Presidential Debates Commission Web Site
1. TITUS: An Update
Situation: The following letter sent to Gail Berman recaps the concerns NAMI StigmaBusters emailed to the FOX Broadcasting Company in May of this year following the episode described below:
August 23, 2000
Gail Berman, President
Dear Ms. Berman:
Congratulations on your recent appointment as President of the Entertainment Group, FOX Broadcasting Company.
The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) represents more than 220,000 families throughout the country who have a son or a daughter, a spouse or a sibling, or an aging parent affected by a severe mental illness, including schizophrenia.
We want to acquaint you with our concerns about “Titus”. We have discussed the issue with Andrew Lozano who received the many messages from our members after the May 8th episode when the Titus office was in hiatus. We do understand that Christopher Titus, the creator/star of this series, based the script on his own life. However, the powerful impact of television requires a responsibility to the entire audience.
- The “Titus” episode of May 8th, repeated twice since, presented a most damaging and destructive image of mental illness. The portrayal of the mother reinforced the stereotype of fear of violence by persons with mental illness. A few months ago we received an email from a member, a 28- year-old woman with a master’s degree in computer science, who was struggling with manic-depression. She wrote: “Why does the media continue to portray us as monsters?” Two hours later she committed suicide.
- Persons with a mental illness require treatment combining medication, rehabilitation and positive family/friend support. Unfortunately, they still face hurtful, unfair fear and stigma in the community as they recover and seek decent housing and work. These persons, afflicted with a no-fault brain disorder, deserve the same respect accorded to individuals who struggle with other devastating physical disorders like cancer, diabetes, HIV, MS, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc.
- Mental illness is not a laughing matter. In his landmark Report on Mental Health, U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher said that “stigma must no longer be tolerated” and that stigma must be reduced by “dispelling myths about mental illness and by providing accurate knowledge to ensure more informed consumers.” In contrast, “Titus” perpetuates myths with its destructive and demeaning portrayal of the mother and the language alluding to her as “looney tunes" and being in the “booby hatch” and the “nut farm”. Suggesting that viewers log on to the FOX web site which links them to KEN (the Knowledge Education Network) does not compensate for this insensitive portrayal of this character.
We hope you understand our request that, as you “nurture this fledgling series”, this episode not be repeated and that this type of portrayal and stereotypical language not be used in future “Titus” episodes. We look forward to your response. Thank you!!
Action: We contacted Gail Berman’s office for a specific response, and was told that she did receive and read our letter. We urge you to continue to monitor this program which airs Tuesday evening, 8:30 p.m. on FOX TV. Check your local TV schedules for broadcast time in your area. Should the mother character again be portrayed or treated in this offensive manner, we urge you to write: Gail Berman, President, FOX TV Entertainment, 10302 West Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90035, and send a copy of your letter to Brian Hargrove, Executive Producer of Titus, at the same address. Email messages may be sent to email@example.com.
2.Mysterious Ways: New NBC Series
Situation: The September 4, 2000 episode of “Mysterious Ways”, a new NBC weekly series, included the portrayal of a female character who heard voices except when she was on medication. Since she liked being manic and hearing voices, she and her husband wound up throwing her medications across the room.
Action: We urge you to contact the program’s producers and have provided a sample letter that you may wish to use. Letters may be fax’d to (818) 432- 7664.
Peter O’Fallon, Executive Producer
Dear Mr. O’Fallon and Mr. Binder:
We commend you for your fascinating new series “Mysterious Ways” dealing with the investigation of mystical phenomena and wish you high ratings.
With more than 220,000 members, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) is the country’s leading grassroots advocacy organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for persons with severe mental illnesses and for their families.
We have received many letters from NAMI members expressing concern about the “Mysterious Ways” episode of Monday, September 4, 2000, on NBC, which included the portrayal of a woman who heard voices except when she was on medication. Since she enjoyed being manic and hearing voices, she and her husband wound up throwing her medications across the room. This is an unfortunate message to and about persons with severe mental illnesses who need their medication to live a functional life in the community. We do not believe you would portray characters with equally devastating illnesses in this manner.
The message also promotes the pervasive, hurtful stigma against persons with mental illness. This stigma impacts adolescents with severe depression who don’t seek psychiatric treatment leading, in part, to an alarming increase in their suicide rate. As US Surgeon General David Satcher commented in his landmark report on mental illness, that “stigma must no longer be tolerated” and that stigma must be reduced by “dispelling myths about mental illness and by providing accurate knowledge to ensure more informed consumers”.
We hope you and your writing staff understand our concerns and that you will not repeat this episode in the future. We invite you and your staff to visit our award- winning web site at www. nami.org for additional information that may assist in the development of any future episodes dealing with severe mental illness.
Thank you for your consideration.
3.The Trouble With Normal: New ABC Series
Situation: After receiving many concerned reports on the promotional trailers on NBC for the new series, we contacted the program’s producer. He has assured us that characters in this sitcom have no connection with severe mental illness. The series is based on so- called normal people who are neurotic and paranoid about everyday situations. Group therapy sessions are prominently featured in the program
Action: Monitor the series scheduled to start on Friday, October 6, 2000, at 8:30 p.m. on ABC. Check your local TV listings for the time in your area.
4. Psycho Pops Continued
Situation: We have received a report that Psycho Pops has retained their offensive title, image and description. You may recall that we contacted them in l999 and were told that as a small family based business they couldn’t afford to do much about this situation. (See NAMI letter below.)
Action: We believe that this company has had adequate time to eliminate or modify the wrappers over the past year and urge NAMI StigmaBusters to drive our message home. Send your letters or emails to: John Brooks, Sr., CEO, Adams & Brooks, Inc., 1915 South Hoover Street, Los Angeles, CA 90007; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
NAMI’s original letter of complaint:
October 27, l999
Mr. John Brooks, Sr., CEO
Dear Mr. Brooks:
NAMI, the Nation’s Voice on Mental Illness, on behalf of its 210,000 families – each family with a son or a daughter, a spouse or a sibling or a parent – diagnosed with a severe mental illness –is outraged and offended by your flyer introducing your product ‘Psycho Pops” with insane sweet/sour flavors split by a hot psycho streak, with flavors called strait jacket strawberry, rabid raspberry, loco lemon and featuring ugly cartoon images. Topping it all you advertise that you are targeting kids 7-15 years old.
This language with the ugly cartoon images perpetuate the pervasive stigma which prevents persons with symptoms of a severe mental illness from seeking treatment. Youngsters fear the taunting of their peers with this language. Too many adolescents, plagued by untreated depression, are committing suicide – the numbers escalating at an alarming rate. We do not believe you want to increase this rate with a sales promotion targeting these youngsters.
NAMI is working with schools throughout the country to educate children about the symptoms of mental illness and the fact that it is a brain disorder – a disorder of the body like any other illness such as cancer, diabetes, heart and lung diseases, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s. And-- that it requires diagnosis and treatment, like all other illnesses. .
We hope you will follow the lead of Nestle USA who responded to the comments of our thousands of families and have withdrawn the offensive names with cartoon faces of their Tasty Tangy Taffy bars to be repackaged and renamed.
NAMI’s concerns follow the lead of the President at the White House Conference on Mental Health and the U.S. Surgeon General, working to reduce the suicide rate among our children by eliminating the stigma based on centuries old myths and misconceptions.
We look forward to your response.
5.Mania: Giorgia Armani New Perfume
Situation: Many NAMI StigmaBusters have written to us complaining about the new Armani perfume “Mania” and its advertising campaign in newspapers and women’s magazines, which features the language “Driven by Desire” and “Live a Little”. We believe the product name and marketing approach is terribly insensitive to persons with bipolar disorder.
Action: Send your letters of concern to Tisha
- Persons with bipolar disorder (also know as manic- depressive illness) experience distressing mood swings that alternate from periods of severe highs (mania) to extreme lows (major depression). The mania episode may include symptoms of hyperactivity, explosive temper, impaired judgement, increased spending, grandiose notions, aggressive behavior, and delusions. We do not believe this is the vision that you or your creative staff had in mind for your new romance enhancing fragrance named “Mania”.
The name “Mania” and the accompanying advertising campaign belittles the millions of people who struggle with this disorder, diminishes the severity of real mania, and further exacerbates the public’s ignorance of this devastating mental illness.
6.Films for Release in 2001
Several screenplays in the works feature characters with mental illness. We are tracking closely the development of these productions and will keep you informed about which carry offensive material and which may be commended for positive, accurate portrayals.
7. Special Alert: Commission on Presidential Debates Web Site
NAMI’s I VOTE I COUNT! Initiative is working to register voters and to encourage the candidates to be responsive to our issues. By the time you read this, the first presidential debate will be over, but the campaign is far from over. The Commission on Presidential Debates is hosting a web site at www.debates.org where you can share your reactions to the debates, participate on issue- oriented online chats, and even weigh in on the issues you think the debates should focus. Visit www.debates.org and let your voice be heard.
PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE SCHEDULE:
Date: October 11
Date: October 17
Again, we thank you for your many sightings of stigma in all national media. If we haven’t included something you shared with you, it means either that it did not meet our criteria for inclusion (see August 11 StigmaBusters Alert) or that we are still investigating the situation. We also welcome out many new members who have recently joined us to increase our count of messages sent by StigmaBusters. Every message counts! And EVERY VOTE COUNTS!
With your enthusiastic support, NAMI StigmaBusters making a real difference!
Stella March, Coordinator
New! Receive stigma alerts via e-mail! Click here to learn how you can join NAMI's stigma alert list to receive regular stigma alerts.
We look forward to hearing from you!