National Alliance on Mental Illness
page printed from
(800) 950-NAMI;

StigmaBusting Network
and Alerts


November 2002

Contact Information:

Ms. Stella March

NAMI StigmaBusters, dedicated advocates across the country and around the world, are fighting pervasive, hurtful prejudice and discrimination that exists toward people with mental illnesses-while commending leaders who communicate accurate messages to the public about mental illness.

Stigma discourages people from getting help when they need it. It dehumanizes individuals. It contributes to lack of investment in the mental healthcare system, with catastrophic costs and consequences.

The time to act is now. NAMI StigmaBusters currently number almost 10,000. Numbers do count, so let your voice be heard!


  1. Harry Potter's Offensive Secret
  2. Presidential Commission Criticizes Wendy's TV Commercial
  3. The Insanity Test
  4. Will & Grace: Comedy That Hurts
  5. Out of Our Inbox


    It's no secret that the movie "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" had one of the most successful openings at the box office in history the weekend of November 15th. What's almost a secret-because most people leave the theater before it appears- is the final scene that follows a long string of credits. A stereotyped image of mental illness is used as the basis of a final joke.

    Earlier during the movie, Professor Lockhart, a narcissistic, fraudulent, and cowardly wizard tries to cast a "memory charm" to cause people to forget, using a broken wand. When it backfires, he "loses his mind" and can't remember his own name. The final scene shows the cover of his latest book, entitled "Who Am I?" with a picture of him in a straitjacket. Because "pictures" in Harry Potter's wizard world move and talk, he also is wiggling and mumbling aimlessly.

    We do not want to publicize an isolated scene, which perhaps less than 25% of moviegoers ever will notice, but StigmaBusters should protest directly to the movie's distributor. Please emphasize the following points:

    • Both President Bush and the U.S. Surgeon General have spoken out strongly about the need to eliminate stigma.
    • Straitjackets are symbols of profound pain and suffering. In context, the scene is a cruel parody of a person with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, a homeless person, or an elderly person with dementia.
    • The scene is also disturbing because the movie is targeted to a young audience whose attitudes are greatly influenced by such stereotypes-and who are approaching the age when severe mental illnesses may first appear. It is not a laughing matter for the movie to perpetuate stigma when suicide is the third-leading cause of death among teenagers and young adults.
    • The scene is completely unnecessary. It should be removed from future copies of the film, including video and DVD versions, or else changed, to remove the straitjacket and the wiggling, mumbling image of a person with a mental disorder-just as current versions of the movie "E.T." were changed to remove guns from the hands of police trying to stop boys on bicycles.

    Contact:    Barry Meyer, Chairman & CEO
        Warner Brothers
        4000 Warner Boulevard
        Burbank CA 91522
        Phone: 818-977-7900
       FAX: 818-954-6523


    Wendy's once again has recently aired its television commercial portraying a small support group session with the leader calling on the members to report. The last person announces that he bought Wendy's Classic Double with Cheese and says: "Call me crazy but it felt great!"

    The Executive Director of President Bush's "New Freedom" Commission on Mental Health joined NAMI's StigmaBusters in complaining about the commercial at a recent Commission hearing. The development startled Wendy's public relations department, which for the first time seems to be taking our complaints seriously. The commercial trivializes mental illness and its treatment.

    • Frankly, it shouldn't take comments by a Presidential Commission to get a corporation to act responsibly.
    • Wendy owes more than apology. It should take the commercial off the air once and for all, and then join in sponsoring a national antistigma public education campaign.

    Please send a message to:

    Mr. Jack Schuessler
    Chairman & CEO
    Wendy's International, Inc.
    4288 W. Dublin-Granville Road
    Dublin, OH 43017
    Fax: 614-766-3979


    An Insanity Test on a commercial Website called targets high school and college students, who once again are most at risk of onset of major psychiatric illnesses and for whom the third-leading cause of death is suicide. Once again, stigma is no joke.

    The "test" perpetuates stereotypes and misinformation that discourages people from seeking treatment when they need it.

    Even worse, the principal advertiser on the site is Panasonic. StigmaBusters need to send them both a message that spreading and sponsoring stigma cannot be tolerated. One way to do so is by also reporting them to the New York and New Jersey departments of human rights.

    Please send messages making the following points:

    • Sparks Notes, LLB of New York and Panasonic, Inc. of New Jersey, as its commercial sponsor, is promoting prejudice and discrimination against people with mental illnesses, through an offensive "Insanity Test" listed on the Website
    • Both the President and Surgeon General have condemned stigma and discrimination. The Website operator and its commercial sponsors are potentially violating both federal and state laws through any adverse, discriminatory impacts on customers, employees and the public.
    • The Insanity Test violates's own "Terms and Conditions" on the Website for user conduct and termination of access: i.e. "promotes, depicts or links to material that promotes discrimination based on...mental disability" and which is considered by "any person with access to such content" to be obscene...harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected."
    • And make sure to mention to SparkNotes and Panasonic that you are making complaints to appropriate New York and New Jersey state authorities.

    SparkNotes LLB at
    76 9th Avenue, 9th Floor
    New York, NY 10011

    Don Awatani, Chairman & CEO
    Panasonic Co.
    1 Panasonic Way
    Secaucus, N.J. 07094
    Phone: 201-348-7000
    FAX: 201-348-7209

    New York State Division of Human Rights
    20 Exchange Place, 2nd Floor
    New York, N.Y. 10005
    Phone: (212) 480-2522
    Fax: 212-480-0143

    New Jersey Division on Civil rights
    140 E. Front St. 6th Floor
    P.O. Box
    Trenton, N.J. 08625
    Phone: 609-292-4605
    Fax: 609-984-3812


    On the November 14, 2002 episode of NBC's "Will and Grace," Gene Wilder portrayed a partner in Will's law firm, returning from a long stay supposedly in the London office. However, he later confessed being in the "loony bin" using body language to emphasize that he had been "crazy" and "nuts."

    • It's bad enough that the slang used in the episode helped to perpetuate stigma.
    • What's worse is that the show's writers used what often is a painful, difficult, real-life situation in recovery from mental illness--I .e., returning to work after hospitalization--as the basis for a joke.
    • Worst of all, the show squadered an opportunity to engage in an invaluable "teaching moment" in which a character's self-derisive stigma perhaps could have been met with compassion-and discussion of the fact one in five Americans are affected by mental illnesses, and that recovery is possible.
    • NAMI StigmaBusters don't lack a sense of humor; however, even situation comedies should exhibit a sense of responsibility and balance.

    Send a message to:

    Put Attention Executive Producers (David Kohan, Max Mutchnick, James Burrows) in the subject line. Also contact:

    Andrew Lack
    President & CEO
    NBC Television Network
    30 Rockefeller Plaza
    New York, N.Y. 10112-0002
    Phone: 202-664-4444
    Fax: 212-664-2994


    We cannot answer all of your messages because of the huge volume we receive. However, we do appreciate and evaluate your reports and support. It's also important to hear about any replies you receive.

    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; ten 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.

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 Give to NAMI! or via regular mail. Please make check payable to NAMI and send to P.O. Box 79972, Baltimore, MD 21279-0972) or donate through the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC #0538).

Please forward this email if you know someone who might like to join in speaking out against stigma or be added to our mailing list. New subscribers to the NAMI StigmaBusters Alerts may Sign up here.