National Alliance on Mental Illness
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StigmaBusting Network and Alerts


NAMI Campaign to End Discrimination
March 8, 2000

Contact Information:

Ms. Stella March

NAMI StigmaBusters now number 4,000 dedicated advocates across the country who are fighting the pervasive and damaging stigma that exists toward mental illness. Numbers count!

Together, we can stop the stigma!

1. NAMI StigmaBusters Alert

Company: Urban Decay

NAMI has not received a response to our earlier letter asking that the company discontinue the offensive labeling of its lipstick line, "Skitz-O-Styx." We ask that you again contact the company and join us in calling for an end to this stigmatizing marketing. (We are providing the name and address of a contact at the company that is different from our earlier Alert; see below.)

Product: An Urban Decay lipstick line is branded "Skitz-O-Styx" with offensive color names, including "Manic Depressive". Marketed on the Internet, the brand name is an obvious take-off on the word "schizophrenia". Advertising language includes: "For every one who relishes the multiple personalities that live inside our bodies. . . each Skitz-o-Styx has all you need to change moods in an instant.

Possible Message Points:

  • Using the term "Manic Depressive" to label a lipstick is offensive to anyone who has ever struggled with bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness
  • Many teenage girls, as well as women of all ages, have these difficult disorders
  • As science has demonstrated, these disorders do not involve either a "split" or "multiple" personalities.


Wende Zomnir, Creative Director

Urban Decay

331 Fairchild Drive

Mountain View, CA 94043


"Wonderland" is a new dramatic television series based in a psychiaric hospital. It will premiere Thursday, March 30th, on ABC and will run opposite NBC’s ER. We have spoken to the program’s producer who assured us that the show consulted extensively with medical professionals; that the portrayals of persons with mental illness are accurate and sensitive; that only the first episode highlights violence; and, that in this initial episode, doctors emphasize that the character who committed the violent crime was not taking his medication.

Although we will reserve judgement until actually seeing the program, we have reason to believe that this program could be a very important vehicle for educating the public about the realities of severe mental illness. We share with you the program’s Mission Statement:

"It is our intention in creating the television series, WONDERLAND, to provide a catalyst for honest dialogue about the often misunderstood and inaccurately represented world of the mentally ill.

We are not politically or religiously affiliated and have no agenda other than to provide a medium for substantial exploration of the vastly complex issues facing all who are touched by mental illness."

We let Wonderland’s producer know that NAMI StigmaBusters will be watching—with letters to follow, as appropriate.

3. ER

As many of you know, NBC’s ER ran an episode on February 10th in which a psychotic patient – a law student who had been waiting for an extremely long time to be seen by Psychiatry – stabbed two emergency room doctors, Lucy and Carter. Lucy later died from her wounds. We found this episode to be deeply troubling for the association it made between mental illness and violence, as did many, many NAMI members who contacted us after the show. WE ARE STILL GETTING CALLS AND EMAILS. NAMI sent ER a letter to express our concerns, but we have not yet received a response. (See end of Alert for NAMI letter.) We encourage you to write a letter and let ER know they fell short of their reputation for putting a sensitive, human face on mental illness.

We urge you to send your own letters to:

John Wells, Executive Producer


4000 Warner Blvd.

Bldg. 133, Room 201

Burbank, CA 91522

Also send a copy to:

Scott Sassa, President


2000 West Alameda Blvd.

Burbank, CA 91523

4. NAMI StigmaBuster Successes

PSYCHO POPS: Adams & Brooks report they are changing the demeaning name, cartoon character and flavor names on their "Psycho Pop" lollipops. We look forward to receiving their new image and language. (NAMI letter is included in this email.)

WCW: (World Championship Wrestling) is removing the offensive nitro warning message from their tee shirts, web site and all other outlets. If you click on WCW, you will find basic tee shirts with their own WCW emblem.

5. TV Toasts

We toast TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL for its episode entitled, "Millennium,"

(12/31/99) in which Ann Margret sensitively portrayed a daughter coming to terms with her absent father who had bipolar disorder. This episode, which concluded with a heart-warming reunion, accurately portrayed the tragic impact mental illness can have on an entire family.

We also toast the television program, ONCE AND AGAIN, for its Thanksgiving episode, in which the lead character Lilly reveals that her parents had kept a secret from her that her brother had been institutionalized with schizophrenia.

6. Don Feder Update

We have received many calls and emails from NAMI members wondering what ever happened with Don Feder. Unfortunately, we did not received a response from Feder, his Creators Syndicate, or the Boston Herald. We received a blurb from Editors & Publishers Magazine (November 1999) in which Feder stated that he has no intention of apologizing. Creators Syndicate indicated that they did not consider Feder’s column to have been directed at people with mental illness as much as at the Democratic Party. However, your messages were received and could have some impact which may be visible in the future...

7. Recent NAMI Letters

NAMI Letter #1 To ER Producer

February 11, 2000

John Wells, Executive Producer


4000 Warner Blvd.

Bldg. 133, Room 201

Burbank, CA 91522

Dear Mr. Wells:

The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) represents more than 210,000 individuals throughout the country who are personally affected by severe mental illnesses, including paranoid schizophrenia.

NAMI members have greatly appreciated ER’s realistic and sensitive story lines when the program has dealt with issues related to mental illness. Your directors, writers and actors have done a tremendous job in putting a human face on mental illness and in educating your audience about the true nature of these disorders.

I am writing, today, in reaction to last night’s ER episode, which reflected a stark reality that many families across the United States know only too well. The shocking conclusion to last night's episode ended with Carter and Lucy being stabbed by a law student whom Lucy had diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and who was waiting, forever, to be seen by Psychiatry.

For the millions of American families directly affected by severe mental illness who viewed this episode, I’m sure it was a horrifying experience to watch the disastrous results of untreated paranoid schizophrenia, especially after Carter told Lucy to "give him to Psychiatry and start taking care of someone with a medical problem."

We know that situations such as this actually do occur in real-life emergency rooms when diagnoses of paranoid schizophrenia are quickly made and waved off by a medical doctor as being "just" a psychiatric problem. We understand because, unfortunately, we have lived this very same scenario far too often. Individuals who are exhibiting psychotic symptoms frequently come into emergency rooms and are not treated as the real medical emergencies they are. Long waits before being taken to the psychiatric unit can trigger tragic responses by untreated patients who are already paranoid and delusional.

NAMI’s message is to urge immediate treatment for any person who exhibits symptoms of mental illness, and for medical doctors to display the same attention to these devastating brain disorders that they do for other ailments.

We also seek to educate the public that people with schizophrenia are no more prone to violence than the general population. Tragedy usually occurs when a person is not being treated or is not taking prescribed medications. Unfortunately, last night’s episode did not adequately present information to allow viewers to understand schizophrenia and the episode’s events in this context. Overall, we fear that it has contributed to greater stigma.

We have received many calls today from members and friends sharing this concern. We hope that in the next episode, and those that follow, you will clarify the true nature of schizophrenia and provide additional information that will present it in a fairer context.

Please feel free to contact me, if NAMI’s expertise can help you in this task. We have appreciated our previous positive association with ER through the use of NAMI posters on the set and hope we can continue such support.

Sincerely, Laurie Flynn, NAMI Executive Director

NAMI Letter #2 to Adams & Brooks

March 7, 2000

John Brooks, Sr.

Adams & Brooks, Inc.

1915 S. Hoover Street, PO Box 77303

Los Angeles, CA 90007

Dear Mr. Brooks:

I am writing to extend our deepest appreciation for your decision to change the name of your "Psycho Pops" lollipop and the names of the flavors (strait jacket strawberry, loco lemon, gonzo grape, and rabid raspberry), which many of our members found offensive.

We understand that your intent was not to stigmatize any group of people, but to attract youngsters in a "playful manner." Nevertheless, individuals who struggle daily with the challenges of severe mental illness and their families do find this sort of labeling hurtful and insulting. For example, I just received a letter from a NAMI member who enclosed several "Psycho Pop" lollipops purchased at a service station in Houghton Lake, Michigan. She wrote that she found the names "entirely demeaning to people with mental illness and their family."

Words such as psycho, loco, and strait jacket, even if only used "playfully," do contribute to the pervasive stigma toward mental illness that exists in our culture. According to a recent landmark report by the U.S. Surgeon General, stigma continues to be the single most significant barrier to people getting the critical treatment they need. Using this language for a children’s product, in particular, only ensures that the stigma we experience each day will persist for another generation.

We appreciate your feedback on protests received by NAMI members. We certainly do not condone or support hostile attacks, and hope that you would understand that such an emotional response merely reflects the deep frustration our members feel when confronted with stigmatizing images and messages virtually everywhere they turn.

Again, please accept my sincere thanks for your responsiveness to our concerns and for supporting our efforts to reduce stigma toward mental illness.

Sincerely, Laurie Flynn, NAMI Executive Director

A Final Note

I get many emails every day. I try to reply to individual messages that need either a specific answer or to be forwarded to the NAMI person in charge of the issue. I appreciate your emails to keep track of reactions from all 50 states and Canada. I will do my best to reply, but I apologize in advance for not being able to keep up with every email. I will include answers to many questions in these StigmaBuster Alerts.

Thanks again for your continued support. Together we are reducing the appalling stigma situations – wherever and whenever they appear!

Stella March, NAMI StigmaBusters Coordinator

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We look forward to hearing from you!