NAMI
National Alliance on Mental Illness
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StigmaBusting Network
and Alerts

NAMI CAMPAIGN STIGMA BUSTERS ALERT


December 2002

Contact Information:

Ms. Stella March

smarch@nami.org

NAMI StigmaBusters, dedicated advocates across the country and around the world, are fighting pervasive, hurtful prejudice and discrimination that exists toward people with mental illnesses-while commending leaders who communicate accurate messages to the public about mental illness.

Stigma discourages people from getting help when they need it. It dehumanizes individuals. It contributes to lack of investment in the mental healthcare system, with catastrophic costs and consequences.

The time to act is now. NAMI StigmaBusters currently number almost 10,000. Numbers do count, so let your voice be heard!

Contact: smarch@nami.org


CONTENTS
  1. Harry Potter's Offensive Secret (Update)
  2. Northern Sun Listens
  3. Insanity Test Dropped
  4. Lunatix Online
  5. Out of Our Inbox

  1. HARRY POTTER'S OFFENSIVE SECRET

    NAMI has continued to receive complaints about the final scene in the movie "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," in which after the credits, a stereotyped image of mental illness appears. Professor Gilderoy Lockhart-a pompous, fraudulent, and cowardly wizard-early in the movie tries to cast a "memory charm" to cause people to forget. When it backfires, he "loses his mind" and can't remember his own name. The final scene shows the cover of Lockhart's latest book, entitled "Who Am I?" with a picture of him in a straitjacket. Because pictures in Harry Potter's magical world move and talk, Lockhart also is shown wiggling and mumbling aimlessly.

    Tolerance.org, a Web project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which focuses broadly on prejudice and discrimination issues, has joined NAMI in encouraging protests of the scene. See this article they published on the topic. The movie's distributor, Warner Brothers (WB), has not yet decided whether to respond.

    StigmaBusters are asked to renew and continue contacting WB over the holidays, emphasizing the following points:

    • Both President Bush and the U.S. Surgeon General have spoken out strongly about the need to eliminate stigma.
    • Straitjackets are stereotyped symbols of mental illness that actually represent profound pain and suffering. The scene is an insult to anyone with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or dementia.
    • It is especially disturbing because the movie is targeted to young audiences whose attitudes often are greatly influenced by such stereotypes-and yet also are greatly at risk of mental illness.
    • The scene tarnishes WB's reputation for sensitivity or compassion concerning mental illness-such as the six episodes in 2001 of the television series "ER," starring Sally Field as a character with bipolar disorder, which received one of NAMI's Outstanding Media Awards.
    • The scene is completely unnecessary to the plot of the movie. NAMI calls not for censorship of the creative arts, but for exercise of corporate social responsibility. Ask that WB voluntarily remove the scene-and any related outtakes-from the video and DVD versions of the movie that still have not yet be released.

    Contact:
    Barry Meyer, Chairman & CEO
    Warner Brothers
    4000 Warner Boulevard
    Burbank CA 91522
    Phone: 818-977-7900
    FAX: 818-954-6523

  2. NORTHERN SUN LISTENS

    Northern Sun is located in Minneapolis, where NAMI will hold its next national convention on June 28-July 2, 2003. Its catalogue featured a T-shirt with the message: "I can't go to work today. The Voices said stay home and clean the guns." After NAMI explained that the message promoted stigma by linking mental illness (specifically auditory hallucinations) with violence, CEO Scott Cramer decided to discontinue its production. He welcomes suggestions by NAMI StigmaBusters of inoffensive, humorous messages. If any are used, he will pay the contributor a royalty fee. This could be a unique opportunity for creative consumers and family members who long have harbored ideas for antistigma messages of hope, pride and recovery.

    Please send a message thanking Northern Sun for listening and responding to NAMI's concerns. If only all individuals and businesses were as open-minded! (To demonstrate gratitude even more dramatically, consider ordering something from the catalogue). See the Northern Sun Web site (www.northernsun.com). Click on "Rewards" for information about how to submit an idea or design.

    Contact:
    Scott Cramer, CEO
    Northern Sun
    2916 East Lake Street
    Minneapolis, MN 55406
    Phone: 1-800-258-8579 or 612-729-2001
    Fax: 612-729-0149
    info@northernsun.com
  3. INSANITY TEST DROPPED

    In response to StigmaBuster concerns, Spark Notes LLB has dropped the "Insanity Test" from thespark.com, a commercial Website that targets high school and college students. Please send a message of appreciation and ask that they remain alert to stigma issues and the mental health crisis that affects many young people today.

    Contact:
    SparkNotes LLB
    76 9th Avenue, 9th Floor
    New York, N.Y. 10011
    Comments@staff.thespark.com
  4. LUNATIX ONLINE

    We apologize for any confusion or misinformation that resulted from the October Alert item about Lunatix Online-which relied on information from the Multiplayer Online Games Directory [www.mpogd.com] rather than the actual game or its owner. Unfortunately, we also misspelled MPOGD's Web address in the original Alert.

    Lunatix Online is a relatively small game that has been around since 1995, with only a few hundred regular subscribers. It is as much a close community of friends-including consumers and family members-as people playing the roles of mental patients "locked away in a wacky insane asylum in a crazy quest to escape." It is not a major commercial enterprise and does not include any advertisements.

    Following StigmaBuster protests, NAMI engaged in a positive dialogue with the game's owner and several players. We have concluded that the game is not an appropriate target for protest or public education. Lunatix Online's owner and players demonstrated genuine sensitivity to people with mental illnesses in our discussions. The game is not intended to promote prejudice or to be taken seriously. Instead, it is a deliberate parody of Hollywood stereotypes of mental illness and insane asylums, combined with rampant silliness. The parody is the central premise of the game. Changing it would require eliminating it, which also would result in the dissolution of the genuine community that has developed around it over many years. (In one case, a player even noted that she met her fiancé playing the game). Consumers and family members particularly argued that they see Lunatix Online as a source of social support and relaxation from the challenges of their conditions.

    "Lunatix should be a fun game to play. No player should come here and feel as though they are unwanted," is one of the game's rules. In an effort to meet NAMI's concerns, the owner has volunteered to post a warning and disclaimer on the Website: i.e., the game is not intended to be offensive, but it also may not be for everyone. We consider that action a good faith, reasonable compromise.

    For StigmaBusters, the case reinforces several points:

    • Pick targets carefully and double-check sources
    • Don't assume bad intentions
    • It's important to keep a sense of humor and perspective. In some cases, it may be difficult to determine exactly where humor ends and stigma begins (or vice versa), which may be the case as much with "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" and "Welcome to the Nut House" this month. That is why respectful dialogue is important.
    • Dialogue works-but it has to flow both ways. In the case of Lunatix Online, we believe both sides were educated, and the lines of communication we established may even serve broader, common concerns.

    StigmaBusters wishes to thank NAMI Kansas and NAMI Wichita especially for their support and advice in the Lunatix dialogue.

  5. OUT OF OUR INBOX

    We receive many diverse messages each month-reports, complaints, questions, and opinions. We cannot answer all messages because of the huge volume we receive; however, we appreciate every report and evaluate them all. It also is important for us to receive copies of replies that you may receive from any Alert targets. They can be important in pursuing genuine dialogues.

    We are grateful for our successes in 2002 and look forward to your continued support in the new year ahead. A joyous holiday season to all!

    Sincerely,
    Stella March
    StigmaBusters Coordinator


With more than 220,000 members and 1200 state and local affiliates, NAMI is the nation's largest grassroots organization dedicated to improving the lives of people with severe mental illnesses. Funding sources for NAMI programs include hundreds of state and local governments and foundations; ten of thousands of individual donors; and a growing number of corporations. NAMI's greatest asset, however, is its volunteers-who donate an estimated $135 million worth of their time each year to education, support and advocacy. NAMI does not endorse any specific medication or treatment.

NAMI StigmaBuster Alerts are electronic newsletters provided free of charge as a public service. Contributions to support our work can be made on-line at Give to NAMI! or via regular mail. Please make check payable to NAMI and send to P.O. Box 79972, Baltimore, MD 21279-0972) or donate through the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC #0538).

Please forward this email if you know someone who might like to join in speaking out against stigma or be added to our mailing list. New subscribers to the NAMI StigmaBusters Alerts may sign up here.

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