National Alliance on Mental Illness
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StigmaBusting Network
and Alerts


NAMI Campaign to End Discrimination
August 2002

Contact Information:

Ms. Stella March

NAMI StigmaBusters, with its dedicated advocates across the country and around the world, are successfully fighting the pervasive and hurtful stigma that exists toward persons with mental illness -and- also commending print media, TV and films that send accurate messages to the public.

NAMI StigmaBusters now number 8,600. Numbers do count, so let your voice be heard.


Reminder: October 6-12, 2002, is Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW). Send a letter to the editor of your local newspaper in advance to publicize MIAW week, calling for an end to stigma and for investments in recovery. Treatment works-when services are available and accessible in the community. Get involved in helping plan local MIAW events now!

  1. The Trentonian: Victory!
  2. The Newark Star-Ledger: Compassionate Reporting
  3. Praise be to "Monk," But Change the Advertising
  4. Sears Pulls T-shirts From Stores
  5. Waiting On Smith & Wollensky
  6. Wendy's Classic Double With Cheese
  7. Responding to Your Requests

  1. The Trentonian: Victory!

    The Trentonian's "Roasted Nuts" headline about the fire at Trenton Psychiatric Hospital was the worst example of cruel, mocking prejudice in the news media in a long time-receiving national condemnation. Thanks to NAMI's StigmaBusters, the newspaper published a second-and sincere-apology from the publisher, who subsequently met with NAMI New Jersey leaders. More significantly, the newspaper will make donations to local mental health programs over the next two years and provide free advertising space for an antistigma campaign in months ahead, while also declaring an intent, through its reporting, to become "an aggressive advocate" for people with mental illness.

    The publisher, David Bonfield, noted that his own 21-year-old son has spent much of the last year coping with a traumatic brain injury, and said that he personally shared NAMI's disgust over the headline.

    The Trentonian's parent company, the Journal Register Company, also disavowed the headline and recognized the "seriousness" of antistigma concerns. It also stated an intention to apply stories and issues concerning mental illness developed by The Trentonian to markets served by its other newspapers around the country. NAMI intends to hold them to that pledge-to develop "a constructive partnership" through news coverage and advertising.

  2. The Newark Star-Ledger: Compassionate Reporting

    Fortunately, sometimes the news media gets it right the first time. In the wake of The Trentonian incident, NAMI New Jersey has commended reporter Brad Parks of The Newark Star Ledger for a Sunday August 4, 2002, article about former professional football player Alonzo Spellman's struggle with bipolar disorder. Featured on the front page of the sports section, with a sidebar explaining the illness and its symptoms, the article reported compassionately about the recent psychotic episodes and tortured career of the former Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears lineman, whom the Detroit Lions terminated this past season.

    On July 23, while flying to Philadelphia to be privately hospitalized by family members, the 6-foot-4, 320-pound Spellman began shouting threats and obscenities on a Delta airlines flight. He is currently being held in jail without bail and faces federal charges, but also is receiving medication. Spellman, 30, is a Rancocas Valley, NJ native and former MVP at Ohio State.

    Please send a short message of praise to Brad Parks, Star-Ledger Plaza, Newark, NJ, 07102 or Letters of encouragement, hope, and faith also can be sent to Alonzo Spellman at: Detention Center, 8201 State Road, Philadelphia, PA, 19136.

  3. Praise be to "Monk," But Change the Advertising

    NAMI StigmaBusters generally are praising the new "Monk" series on the USA cable network about a detective with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), who has amazing abilities to discern evidence and solve crimes. On August 13, ABC-TV also began to broadcast four episodes of the program-a sign of its growing popularity.

    The series is entertaining and generally accurate in its portrayal of OCD symptoms. Monk's role is positive, and some NAMI families even find the character inspiring as a role model of perseverance.

    Most complaints have focused on advertisements associated with the show: e.g., references to a "defective" detective, and during the ABC premiere, the airing of a commercial for the perfume "Mania" by Giorgio Armani. In one episode, Monk also was shown, rather anachronistically, wearing a straightjacket-an offensiveness and wholly unnecessary image.

    NAMI StigmaBusters are asked to write the producer, praising the show's overall positive features, but asking that offensive advertising slogans be eliminated, as well as any offensive, stereotyped gimmicks. Encourage them to develop the character and plots in a way that continues to break new, positive ground in television's depiction of a mental illness.

    Contact: Andy Breckman, Executive Producer & Writer
    David Hoberman, Executive Producer
    Rob Thompson, Executive Producer
    USA Network
    152 West 57 Street
    New York, NY 10019
    (212) 314-4000

  4. Sears Pulls T-shirts From Stores

    Thanks to a report from Vicki Sayles of Bucks County, PA, NAMI recently learned that Sears was selling T-shirts with the message: "You should hear the NAMES the VOICES in my head are calling you." We called Sears headquarters and informed them about the offensive nature of the message. The next day, Sears agreed to withdraw the shirt from ALL its stores, coast to coast, and to communicate to the manufacturer, in returning them, NAMI's protest of such products.

    Please let us know if you sight T-shirts with similar offensive messages in other major department stores. We need to know the emblazoned message, the name of the store, and if possible, the name of the manufacturer.

  5. Waiting On Smith & Wollensky

    Last month, we reported how the Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group (SWRG) ran full-page ads in the New York Times in May and June for the Park Avenue Café (located in New York and Chicago), depicting executive chef, David Burke, wearing a straightjacket over the slogan: "There's a fine line between genius and madness." The ads ultimately were discontinued in response to protests and the newspaper's decision that the ad violated its own standards.

    StigmaBusters were asked to contact SWRG's president to explain how offensive the Park Café straightjacket advertisements were, and to encourage them to go beyond discontinuing them to take affirmative action to eliminate prejudice and discrimination against people with mental illnesses. To date, no response has been received.

    Please keep trying. Write again to Mr. James Dunn, President, Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group, 1114 First Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10021 or 212-758-6027 (fax). E-mail can be sent to his assistant: Suggest that the company fund advertising for an antistigma campaign-in anticipation of Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW), October 6-12.

    Listed below also are the names and telephone numbers of S&W restaurants in major cities. Local NAMI affiliates and StigmaBusters may wish to contact each restaurant's manager to express disappointment over the parent company's offensive advertising in the past, and lack of responsiveness in righting the wrong. Inquire about whether the restaurant would be willing to help sponsor a local antistigma campaign for MIAW. Please let us know of any results!

    Smith & Wollensky Restaurants:
    Chicago, N. State Street at Marina City, 312-670-9900
    Las Vegas, On the Strip opposite the Monte Carlo, 702-862-4100
    Miami Beach, 1 Washington Ave. in S. Pointe Park, 305-673-2800
    New Orleans, Poydras at S. Rampart, 504-561-0770
    New York City, Third Ave. & 49th St., 212-753-1530
    Philadelphia, 210 West Rittenhouse Square, 215-545-1700
    Washington, DC, 19th St. NW between L & M, 202-466-1100

    NAMI also is interested in receiving reports about any discrimination in hiring or seating of patrons at SWRG restaurants, based on mental illness. Other SWRG restaurants located in New York City include: Cite, Maloney & Porcelli, The Post House, The Manhattan Ocean Club, and One e.p.s.

    In choosing targets, we have to set priorities and pick fights carefully. At the same time, we appreciate every complaint we receive. You are our eyes and ears.

    Thank you for posting our Alerts on your bulletin boards and forwarding them to friends. Encourage people to join in supporting each month's recommended actions as a means of educating individuals and institutions.

  6. Wendy's Classic Double With Cheese

    Let's double our efforts.

    A Wendy's television commercial continues to portray a small support group with a leader calling on members to report. The last person declares he recently bought a Wendy's Classic Double with Cheese and says "You might call me crazy, but it felt great!" The leader claps: "Bravo! Bravo!"

    As reported in June, we advised Wendy's CEO that the commercial trivializes mental illness and treatment through group therapy. To date, the company has not responded, while we continue to receive reports that the commercial is airing in prime time. Please send a message in protest to:

    Mr. Jack Schuessler, Chairman & CEO
    Wendy's Customer Relations
    Wendy's International, Inc.
    4288 W. Dublin-Granville Road
    Dublin, OH 43017

  7. Responding to Your Requests

    We read and appreciate messages from all over-which most recently included Scotland, Malta, South Africa and India. We cannot respond individually to every message because of the volume, however, responses to many common questions are provided below.

    • The "Titus" television series on the FOX network receives many complaints for its references to mental illness as part of a generally wild, outrageous comedy style. Our efforts to contact the program met without a response; however, we were able to talk directly at one point with Chris Titus' aunt (his mother's sister) who confirmed that episodes dealing with the mother's behavior, as a person with schizophrenia, were generally accurate. His mother did stop taking medication after each hospital discharge and became violent. In real life, the aunt tried to be supportive and have her live with her¾but like other family members, in fear of their lives, finally had to lock her out.

      Much of the show is based on Titus' true experiences growing up. In some episodes, his closing, reflective soliloquy also expresses greater sensitivity than his jokes otherwise suggest. This past season also, his mother's character died. Although complaints may decrease as a result, don't expect the show to be anything but outrageous. This is one of those cases where it's best ignored.

    • We received some requests this past spring to protest the annual reference to MARCH MADNESS describing college basketball playoffs. We do not protest language, however, unless it is used directly about a person with a mental illness or as a description of a mental illness. In this context, the usage tends to reflect the dictionary's definition of madness as "ecstasy" or "enthusiasm" -- especially, one would imagine, in the case of the teams that make the Final Four!
    • Local advertisers respond to local residents who are their customers. Please continue to contact local advertisers, newspaper editors and radio station managers to protest offensive messages that appear locally.
    We appreciate your support and reports that have helped to bust the stigma in national and local media. We are well on our way¾making our message known, understood and applied to eliminate prejudice and discrimination against people with mental illnesses.

    Stella March, Coordinator
    NAMI StigmaBusters Email Alert

    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!