|National Alliance on Mental Illness
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NAMI StigmaBuster Alert - October 6, 2005
Unfortunately, it's the time of year when some Halloween "haunted house" attractions are cast as insane asylums. If this is the case in your community, we recommend the following actions:
- Contact the sponsors personally. They may be commercial proprietors or service clubs. Explain the meaning of stigma and the fact that the U.S. Surgeon General and President Bush have made its elimination a public health priority. (See December 2004 alert). Educate them. Ask them to modify the attraction to remove offensive parts.
- If the initial dialogue fails, have NAMI members and others in your community -- such as the PTA -- phone, send letters, or e-mail the main sponsor, and any companies co-sponsoring the promotion. (This might be a local fast-food franchise or soft drink distributor.)
- Contact local newspaper editors and television news directors. Educate them about stigma and your concerns. Offer consumers and family members for personal interviews.
- If the sponsor is a service club, ask to be allowed to make a presentation on stigma and mental illness at their next meeting.
- Build partnerships. Sponsors may not be willing or able to change attractions now, but did not intend to offend. If so, ask for a written promise to use a different theme next year -- and then work to recruit them into sponsors of NAMIWalks or other events.
Head Cases Chopped
After only two episodes, Fox TV cancelled the show, Head Cases, about two lawyers living with mental disorders. StigmaBuster reviews were mixed over whether the show's premise represented stigma. The bottom line: it was a weak show. Ironically, the infamous Wonderland, about a psychiatric hospital, which ignited protests in 2000, also was cancelled after only two episodes.
The Web site and advertising for the show, Bridezilla , on the WE: Women's Entertainment cable television network is highly offensive. Since 2002, brides on the reality show have revealed incessant demands and frazzled emotions in the weeks leading up to their weddings.
Unfortunately, the Web site shows a progression of three pictures of a bride in a wedding dress: from "Engaged" to "Enraged" to "About to Be Committed." The final picture shows her wrapped in a straitjacket. Brides on the show, the site declares, go from sweet to certifiable.
Please contact the show and the president of WE's parent company, Rainbow Media, Inc. Send them these messages:
- Change the Web site. Remove the straitjacket and any suggestion of mental illness.
- Straitjackets are extremely offensive symbols, representing the pain and deaths of people with severe brain disorders.
- Straitjackets also are unfair symbols of violence that perpetuate stigma condemned by the U.S. Surgeon General.
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The NAMI Connection: Lincoln's Melancholy
The latest issue of NAMI's newest electronic newsletter, The NAMI Connection, includes a review of Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness by Joshua Wolf Shenk, a consumer who has struggled with depression. It carefully documents Lincoln's history of mental illness and helps strike a blow against stigma. Mention it in talks before public audiences or letters to editors. If you don't already receive The NAMI Connection, you can subscribe at www.nami.org/subscribe.
Kudos to Stella and All Who Walked
Stella March, NAMI StigmaBusters' coordinator, is too humble to mention this bit of news, so we are sneaking it in. Last week, a Los Angeles Times column profiled her in a story promoting the Los Angeles County NAMIWalk.
The last NAMIWalk for 2005 takes place on October 29, in Washington, D.C. Congratulations and many, many thanks to all who walked to raise awareness against stigma and for recovery.
To receive StigmaBuster Alerts directly in your inbox, visit www.nami.org/subscribe, sign in and check the box next to StigmaBusters.