National Alliance on Mental Illness
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StigmaBusting Network and Alerts


NAMI Campaign to End Discrimination
February 2001.

Contact Information:

Ms. Stella March

NAMI StigmaBusters, with its dedicated advocates across the country, are successfully fighting the pervasive and damaging stigma that exists toward persons with mental illness. NAMI StigmaBusters now number almost 6,000. The stigma perpetuators count messages, so please send your message to be included in their count.

NOTE: This StigmaBusters Alert was delayed because of the holidays in December and extended into mid-January, which required more time to confirm each situation. We try to post these Alerts on a monthly basis.




2. ER: SALLY FIELD Character Update

3. BETTE: "Faked psychotic episode"

4. ARMANI: Response to "Mania" name for fragrance

5. TITUS: New Information and Message Points





Late breaking situation: XFL MEMPHIS MANIAX: SITUATION: The name, the logo image with the twisted face and the Asylum cheerleaders promoting the new football team are most offensive. NAMI Tennessee has sent letters to the General Manager of the Memphis Maniax, the local Newspaper and the Mayors of Memphis but has not received a response. The Chair of the Tennessee Mental Health Planning Council received a negative response from the Team VP and Manager. Since the Memphis Maniax are one of the new XFL teams which will be playing in other cities, perhaps yours, we are circulating this national alert:


- We understand your new football league is opting to be fun and entertaining…however, the logo face with the spiked hair and swirls for eyes represents a stereotype that mental health advocates work so hard to overcome. Mental illness is neither fun nor entertaining.

- Mentally ill people are not wild maniacs as implied by the MANIAX name, logo and the language CHEERLEADERS "ASYLUM" COMMUNITY.

- This use of antiquated language like maniax and asylum and the ugly logo is most offensive, hurtful, demeaning and humiliating for millions of men, women and children struggling with a mental illness.

- We hope that the co-owners of the XFL, NBC and World Wrestling Federation Entertainment will recognize their responsibility and have the MANIAX name and logo changed to another name that will not offend any race, ethnic background, or person with mental or physical disability.

- To continue to use of the name and logo of Memphis Maniax will perpetuate the pervasive stigma that is a barrier to recovery for our one in five Americans struggling with a severe mental illness. Mental illness is neither fun nor entertaining.

SEND MESSAGES TO: Bob Wright, President & CEO, NBC 30 Rockefeller Plaza New York, NY 10112 via email: Basil V. Devito Jr. President XFL Steve Ehrhart, VP & General Manager; Memphis Maniax



"I own it," says Carrie Fisher. "I'm mentally ill." Carrie Fisher's Revelation : Star Tells of Her Struggle With Manic Depression

"I have a chemical imbalance that, in its most extreme state, it will lead me to a mental hospital," Carrie Fisher told Diane Sawyer on PrimeTime Thursday (ABC 12/21/00)

Fisher, the actress who turned Star Wars' Princess Leia into a superheroine, told Sawyer her manic depression creates such a roar of energy in the brain that she is left with uncontrollable mood swings, frenzied thoughts and suffers sleepless nights.

A Neurobiological Brain Disorder: "I used to think I was a drug addict, pure and simple — just someone who could not stop taking drugs willfully," says Fisher. "And I was that. But it turns out that I am severely manic depressive."

It has taken her 20 years and a mental breakdown to say these words publicly.

"The world of manic depression is a world of bad judgment calls," says Fisher. "Just every kind of bad judgement because it all seems like a good idea at the time. A great idea … So if it's talking, if it's shopping, if it's — the weirdest one for me is sex. That's only happened twice. But then it's wow, who are you?" She tells Sawyer, "You can't stop. It's very painful. It's raw. You know, it's rough … your bones burn … when you're not busy talking and trying to drown it out."

Turning to Drugs: The daughter of movie star Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher, Carrie grew up surrounded by Hollywood's glamour. When she was just a toddler, her father abandoned his family and ran off with a family friend, Elizabeth Taylor. Fans were scandalized and the Fisher family was openly shattered. And the little girl who adored him masked her bruises with moxie. When she was 17, Fisher stole the show in the film Shampoo. Two years later, she starred opposite Harrison Ford in Star Wars. By the third Star Wars movie, she was using pills heavily to sleep at night and about to begin a four-year drug binge with no lid on it.

When she was in her mid-20s, doctors told her she had a form of mania. But she didn't believe it. "I thought they told me I was manic depressive to make me feel better about being a drug addict," she says. " You think, 'if you could just control yourself' … 'You had an indulged childhood' … 'You were a child of privilege' … I don't know, that's what I thought. 'You're just a drug addict'."

In 1983, Fisher married singer Paul Simon. "One of the things I really liked about Paul," she says, is that " words that have a certain rhythm are very soothing to me. Before I got into drugs, I was into books. And I was into the ways you could say it … Because otherwise it was just me, inside of all that. Paul conveyed those worlds and those rhythms." But neither the marriage nor the calming rhythms lasted. At one point, she was taking 30 Percadin a day to try to mellow out her manic state.

Fisher, who has written about her drug addiction in the best- selling book "Postcards From the Edge", was hospitalized two years ago. "I had a psychotic break. I was in lock-up for two weeks," she says. "I continued as an outpatient for five months. And I belonged there. I wasn't there by accident."

Today, thanks to doctors, time and six different medications taken daily, Fisher is healthier and has written a made-for-TV movie entitled "These Old Broads," about a wife who is betrayed by her husband who runs off with one of her glamorous friends. The movie stars Fisher's mother, Debbie Reynolds, Shirley Maclaine, Joan Collins, and, ironically, Elizabeth Taylor as the other woman.

"I outlasted my problems," says Fisher. "I am mentally ill. I can say that. I am not ashamed of that. I survived that. I'm still surviving it, but bring it on. Better me than you."

We have sent Carrie Fisher a letter of appreciation, applause and commendation on behalf of all NAMI members, families, consumers, and friends. Fisher followed the NAMI message; accepting her mental illness, going for treatment and sticking with it for a better life for herself and her daughter.


SITUATION: We have been receiving mixed reviews about the "mother" character with bipolar disorder played by Sally Field in "ER" episodes during November Sweeps month. Field will continue this role in the final 2 episodes during the May Sweeps month.

We have sent a letter to the producers of "ER" with our concern about the final resolution of this character's unhappy relationship with her daughter, who cannot tolerate the mother's erratic, un-treated bipolar behavior. Everyone appreciates the excellent portrayal by Sally Field. However, we let the producers know our hope is for her character (like Carrie Fisher in real life) to finally accept her bipolar disorder, seek treatment and stick to the prescribed medication to improve her life and her relationship with her daughter.

No need for ACTION at this time.

3. BETTE: FAKED "EPISODE" 12/20/00

SITUATION: Bette Midler's plays a dizzy diva character in her CBS sitcom series.

Many StigmaBusters members, who viewed her episode on 12/20/00, reported their hurt and offense at her " faked psychotic episode" which was called a "nervous breakdown." This faked portrayal with auditory hallucinations was created to help the Bette character be gain recognition by making the 50 most "craziest" lists.

We have informed Midler and her producers that this "faked breakdown" and the language used are most stigmatizing to persons who have struggled with a true psychotic episode. The devastating symptoms of mental illness are no laughing matter. We have requested that they not repeat this episode.

We will continue to monitor and advise when ACTION is needed.

4. ARMANI: "MANIA" Fragrance

SITUATION: Many StigmaBusters reported ads in several women's magazines touting the new ARMANI fragrance called "Mania" with the message: "Driven by Desire, Live a Little." We informed them about the true nature of the Mania part of bipolar disorder, which we did not believe was the vision they had in mind for their latest romance enhancing fragrance.

I reached a person in their corporate office who explained that the title "MANIA" used by Armani, who is Italian, is the Italian word pronounced MA –NE'-A (accent on the second syllable), which translated means "obsession". He must use the Italian word since a competitor uses the English word "Obsession."

5. TITUS: Update with New Information

SITUATION: Although we have sent several direct letters and previous StigmaBusters Alerts about this Fox TV series, Titus has continued to treat most disrespectfully the mother character with schizophrenia, and to use offensive language when referring to her. Christopher Titus, the creator and lead actor, has informed the public that this series is based on his real childhood experience, with a mother who was mentally ill and a father who was an alcoholic.

I had the opportunity to speak to Chris Titus' real life aunt (his mother's sister). She informed me that his story is true. His mother had been in and out of mental institutions. However, once she manipulated her release, she stopped taking medication and did indeed become violent. The family had to protect themselves, as shown in various episodes where her character appears and the doors are locked and bolted against her entry into the house. Chris' aunt also said she had tried for many years to provide emotional support for her ill sister, but finally to protect herself, had to withdraw. Chris' mother eventually committed suicide.


- Request that when the character of the mother with schizophrenia appears in an episode, Chris mentions in his commentary or dialogue that his mother becomes violent when she is not taking her medication.

- Request that in the commentary at the end of these episodes, Chris confirm that the language they use referring to the "booby hatch", "nut farm", or "looney tunes" are most offensive to the one in five persons struggling with mental illness and perpetuates stigma.


Send your messages to: Gail Berman, President, Entertainment Group, Fox Broadcasting Company, 10302 West Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90035 Brian Hargrove, Executive Producer, Christopher Titus, Executive Producer Titus, Fox Television, P.O. Box 900, Beverly Hills, CA 90213-0900 or email: delphi.foxtitus/messages

6. POLITICALLY INCORRECT: Bill Maher's Incorrect Apology

Jan. 16, 2001: Maher compared "retarded children" to dogs, on "Politically Incorrect" saying that both are "sweet, loving and kind, but don't mentally advance at all." "Dogs are like retarded children," he said.

January 21, 2001: ABC said that Maher had "gone over the line" of 'political incorrectness' and apologized profusely for the insensitivity of the remark.

Bill Maher followed with an apology for his comments about the "retarded children."

"I wanna make an apology to the mentally ill and their families. I made some comments last week on the show, which were wrong. And I'm sorry about that. Also, I would like to apologize to ABC. They didn't ask me to do that but, you know, there's no reason why they should have to put up with and answer for my faux pas. I appreciate the freedom that they give me, and I'm sorry that sometimes I don't control it very well. I offer no excuses, because none would be proper, or adequate. And I certainly didn't mean what I said the way it came out. And it certainly is never the point of the show to try to pick on anyone with any afflictions I am sorry about it and I hope they accept that."

Please note: Maher used "mentally ill" to refer to comments about "retarded children." Despite his weak apologies, he has demonstrated a pattern of cruel, stigmatizing remarks toward both people with mental illness and developmental disabilities.

Since Maher's POLITCALLY INCORRECT enjoys high ratings, we do not believe we can really "punish him." We will monitor and send more messages as required until he really "gets it."


SITUATION: We received reports from many StigmaBustes about the CBS's 60 Minutes II broadcast (1/09/01) publicizing "The Games Begin! Reality TV Shows Tap Real People In Action: Europeans Pave The Way As Second Wave Hits U.S." For example, one of the scenarios of DeMol's "Booby Trap" involves committing an unsuspecting victim to a "lunatic asylum." "Booby Trap" is a revenge show. Think of someone you want to get even with, a practical joker in the office, perhaps, and Booby Trap will lure him into a sadistic hidden camera plot. The show has been bought by NBC under the title "Sweet Revenge."

We contacted the producer of "Sweet Revenge" about our concerns which include the offensive and hurtful practical joke of pretending to commit an unsuspecting victim, in addition to the stigmatizing use of the language "lunatic asylum" instead of a hospital for persons who need hospital care for their illness.

After our conversation and follow up letter, I believe they got the message and will not use a practical joke associated with a mental disorder.

However, we will be watching when "Sweet Revenge" airs.

8. DEBS FUN PAGE: Mental Health Hotline

Several StigmaBusters reported this so called "fun page" on the Internet, a page featuring symptoms of mental disorders, which for several years have been adapted most offensively for seasonal events, even Christmas Cards. DEBS FUN PAGE adapted it on 1/18/01 for an answering machine, which says: " Hello, and welcome to the mental health hotline. If you are obsessive compulsive, press 1 repeatedly, if you are co-dependent, please ask someone to press 2 for you; if you are paranoid, we know who you are and what you want. Stay on the line so we can trace your call; if you are delusional, press 7 and your call will be transferred to the mother ship; if you are schizophrenic, listen carefully and a small voice will tell you which number to press; if you are manic- depressive, it doesn't matter which number you press - no-one will answer" etc. and winds up with "click here to pass the fun along!!!" Mental Health Institute (By Debs Fun Pages)

ACTION: These symptoms are no fun. Mental illness is not a laughing matter. Email: "Debs Fun Pages"

9. GUIDELINES FOR INTERNET REPORTS (from StigmaBusters Aug.2000 Alert)

Stigma on the Internet. The Internet seems to be an endless source of stigmatizing situations. With each one that comes to our attention, we evaluate the actual communications, the potential audience in its reach; corporate name recognition and size, and the product they are selling or representing. We can't take on the entire World Wide Web, but we do know that a flood of Stigmabusters messages to a internet comment line makes a powerful difference. For example, after being deluged by e-mails from NAMI StigmaBusters, the World Wide Wrestling (federation? WWF??) WWW withdrew an offensive message that appeared on T-shirts sold on their web site. WWW apologized and withdraw the shirts, replacing them with tee shirts carrying only their own logo.

StigmaBusters Reporting Requirements: (for all media)

- Provide details. Include newspaper/magazine name and publication date; name of product and/or advertiser; the network it ran on, etc. NAMI StigmaBusters reporting about a song with offensive lyrics, heard either on radio or TV, must include the name of the vocalist with the correct title of the song. We need these details to check it out.

- When in doubt, do not hesitate to report the situation for our evaluation.

- Please email your concerns and reports directly to me,

I do appreciate your reports, comments, etc. However, I am not able to respond to the hundreds of e-mails I receive. I do forward specific requests to the appropriate NAMI person and follow through on the national stigma situations with responses in these Alerts.

Let's continue to work together to reduce the stigma! Our messages do work!

If you wish to sign up for NAMI StigmaBusters EMail Alert: please go to our Web Site at and scroll down to click on Stigma Alert List where you can sign on or off. and check out our past Alerts.

With your enthusiastic support, NAMI StigmaBusters making a real difference!

Stella March, Coordinator
NAMI StigmaBusters Email Alert

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We look forward to hearing from you!