National Alliance on Mental Illness
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NAMI StigmaBusters Alert - January 26, 2005
Stigma Bear Protest Continues
The protest against the Vermont Teddy Bear (VTB) Company's bear in a straitjacket has grown, including a January 22 article in the New York Times and calls for the company's CEO to resign from the board of trustees of the largest hospital in the state.
VTB's "Crazy for You Bear" for Valentine's Day features a 15-inch bear in a straitjacket. It comes with a "Commitment Report" that includes the symptoms "can't eat, can't sleep, my heart's racing."
NAMI Vermont initiated the protest and organized a coalition of Vermont mental health advocates, supported by NAMI National. VTB has agreed to meet before Valentine's Day with Vermont leaders on February 1 and NAMI National leaders on February 8.
To date, the company has:
*Apologized, stating no intent to offend and recognizing "the serious nature of mental illness." After Valentine's Day, the bear will not become part of VTB's permanent product line.
*Dropped mention of the bear from radio commercials.
*Dropped the bear from the front page of the VTB Web site, their primary point of sales nationwide. However, the bear is still featured in the Valentine's Day section of the site and significant sales continue. The two weeks leading into Valentine's Day represent the peak sales period.
Action Needed By February 1st:
Keep the pressure on. Please contact VTB now to make the following points and offer a personal story:
*Stop selling the Stigma Bear (Straitjacket Bear) immediately.
*They are ignoring the U.S. Surgeon and President Bush's New Freedom Commission; contributing to a broader public health crisis. They are destroying their own national reputation.
*Apologies are not enough. Every day that the bear is on sale, they are creating a larger and larger obligation to repair the damage. They need to support the fight against stigma.
The Vermont Teddy Bear Company
Stella March, National Coordinator