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NAMI StigmaBusters Alert: December 26, 2004


Best wishes for the holidays!

In the spirit of the season, we have a heartwarming story to share.

Praise Reader's Digest

It is important to praise the media that "get it right." This month, we congratulate Reader's Digest for reprinting "Payday," by Lane DeGregory of the St. Petersburg Times.

The article focuses on Ed Wohlford, who lives with schizophrenia and works at a sandwich shop through an employment program sponsored by Vincent House in Pinellas Park, Florida. His story is one of a profile in courage, sending a message to millions of readers that defies stigma.

Please send a letter to Reader's Digest thanking them for running the story. Include a short personal story of your own about such courage, as well as making any one of the following points:

  • It is good to see a person with a mental illness portrayed as a hero, rather than as an inaccurate stereotype.
  • Treatment works and work is part of recovery.
  • Everyone benefits by employing people with mental illnesses. Costs from the illness are reduced, and the nation's productivity increases.
  • President Bush and the Surgeon General, and the President New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, have all called for a national campaign against stigma and discrimination.

You Said It
Reader's Digest
Box 200
Pleasantville, NY 10572-0200

Key Quotes and Resources

In the fight against stigma, key quotes and resources always come in handy. As our present to you for the holidays, here are some big ones to use in writing letters or speaking out. Print it out and save it.

U.S. Surgeon General's Report on Mental Health

Chapter One on "The Roots of Stigma" includes:

Stigmatization of people with mental disorders has persisted throughout history. Bias, distrust, stereotyping, fear, embarrassment, anger, and/or avoidance manifest it. Stigma leads others to avoid living, socializing or working with, renting to, or employing people with mental disorders, especially severe disorders such as schizophrenia. It reduces patients' access to resources and opportunities (e.g., housing, jobs) and leads to low self-esteem, isolation, and hopelessness. It deters the public from seeking and wanting to pay for, care. In its most overt and egregious form, stigma results in outright discrimination and abuse. More tragically, it deprives people of their dignity and interferes with their full participation in society.

Why is stigma so strong despite better public understanding of mental illness? The answer appears to be fear of violence…but the overall likelihood of violence is low… the overall contribution of mental disorders to the total level of violence in society is exceptionally small.

President Bush's New Freedom Commission

President Bush's April 2002 speech appointing the commission includes the declaration:

Our country must make a commitment: Americans with mental illness deserve our understanding, and they deserve excellent care…They deserve a health care system that treats their illness with the same urgency as a physical illness. To meet this goal, we've got to overcome obstacles…The first obstacle is the stigma, the stigma that often surrounds mental illness -- a stigma caused by a history of misunderstanding, fear, and embarrassment. Stigma leads to isolation, and discourages people from seeking the treatment they need. Political leaders, health care professionals, and all Americans must understand and send this message: mental disability is not a scandal; it is an illness; and like physical illness, it is treatable, especially when the treatment comes early.

The Commission's Final Report recommended:

Advance and implement a national campaign to reduce the stigma of seeking care and a national strategy for suicide prevention.

The Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is responsible for creating the national antistigma campaign. It includes the Resource Center to Address Discrimination and Stigma (ADS Center), an important source of information, and teleconferences.

In speaking out against stigma, feel free to invoke the Federal government as an authority. Emphasize that stigma is a public health crisis. Mention the President and Surgeon General. Quote them or include links to the Web sites. Include a link to ADS Center site. For letters sent by regular mail, enclose a one-page printout of the ADS Center homepage, to demonstrate vividly the weight of the government's concern. Use these sources to your fullest advantage.

Best wishes for 2005.

Thank you for your support in 2004.

Stella March, National Coordinator
NAMI StigmaBusters