National Alliance on Mental Illness
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NAMI StigmaBuster Alert: December 15, 2005
Miami Tragedy: No Joke
Last week's death of Rigoberto Alipzar, the man with bipolar disorder shot by air marshals during a medical crisis aboard an American Airlines flight in Miami, deeply affected consumers and their families. In an official statement, and in the national media, including the NBC Nightly News, NAMI executive director Michael J. Fitzpatrick called for the federal Air Marshal Service and "all other law enforcement agencies" to take a close look at their training and education protocols and, if these are currently lacking, to adopt measures to prepare officers to respond effectively to people with severe mental illness.
Unfortunately, some people could not resist making jokes about the tragedy. Comedian Michael Feldman, whose two-hour "Whad'ya Know?" radio show is syndicated nationally on hundreds of public radio stations, joked on the December 10, 2005 broadcast (Part 1) that American Airlines is now reminding passengers "to pack their meds" and that "looking around coach to guess who’s off their thorazine" is a "great little game to play with kids."
Ironically, a portion of the same show was devoted to an interview with Alan Alda, whose recently-published book, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I've Learned, includes the story of his mother’s schizophrenia, including an episode in which she needed to fly home from France for care.
Please contact Feldman. Ask him to apologize. It's possible that he may read comments on the show, so be polite and to the point. Tell a personal story about stigma or how the Miami tragedy affected you.
Michael Feldman's Whad'Ya Know?
The Teaching Tolerance Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center has recently published Speak Up! Responding to Everyday Bigotry, to guide people in challenging prejudice and discrimination against minorities, including people with mental illnesses.
The 80-page booklet offers insightful, practical suggestions and six basic, recommended steps, based on hundreds of stories and interviews -- including some with NAMI. It can be used for individual reference, or for group discussions.
A PDF copy can be downloaded for free from the Teaching Tolerance Web site. A free print copy also can be ordered online.
The Elimination of Barriers Initiative (EBI), a program of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), is seeking fresh stories of recovery.
EBI is particularly interested in stories about stigma surrounding mental illness from people in racial, ethnic, or gender communities, who often face even greater prejudice and discrimination in their lives. However, whether or not you have a minority identity, EBI is interested in your story.
Submission information can be downloaded from the EBI Web site by clicking on "Submit a Story" and "Fill Out a Consent Form."
Many good wishes to all StigmaBusters. Thank you for being our eyes and ears during the past year. See you in 2006!
Stella March, National Coordinator