National Alliance on Mental Illness
page printed from
(800) 950-NAMI;


March 2003

NAMI StigmaBusters change public attitudes by protesting media that perpetuate ignorance, prejudice or discrimination surrounding mental illnesses, while praising those that communicate accurate, compassionate messages, promoting treatment and recovery.

The U.S. Surgeon General has warned that stigma is "the most formidable obstacle to future progress in the arena of mental illness and mental health." It discourages people from getting help when they need it. It dehumanizes individuals. It contributes to a lack of investment in the mental healthcare system, with catastrophic costs and consequences.

NAMI StigmaBusters number more than 10,000 in the United States and around the world. Let your voice be heard! Support NAMI's Campaign for the Mind of America by taking action on this month's priority cases. Together, we can make a difference!



  • Homie Clowns: Psycho, Skitzo & Pyro
  • More Stigma For Kids: As Told By Ginger
  • Update: Harry Potter
  • Update: NBC Complaint
  • Kudos to Dairy Queen
  • Out of the Inbox


Some Latinos already consider the entire line of "Homie" dolls to be as offensive as three "Homie clowns" reported to NAMI for specifically mocking mental illness. The three- inch high figures created by artist David Gonzales sell for 50 cents in vending machines and are distributed wholesale by Peek-A-Boo Toys.


Psycho, wrapped in a straitjacket and shackled in chains at the ankles, is described as "completely insane…a psychotic lunatic with antisocial and homicidal tendencies." Skitzo perpetuates the stereotype of split personality along with the offensive nickname: "after extensive psychological counseling" he was allowed to return to work, but makes other clowns nervous, because they never know when he will be "stable" or "freaked out." Pyro loves the sight of raging fires and has been "in and out of psycho wards at mental institutions across the country."

Please send the following messages:

  • The Homie clowns Psycho, Skitzo and Pyro are extremely offensive and reflect unfair stereotypes of violence associated with mental illness. They perpetuate stigma and will serve to discourage people who need help from getting it.
  • One in five Americans suffer from mental illness at some point during their lifetime. Kids especially will not report symptoms or ask for help because of the fear of peers calling them psycho, skitzo, etc. Today, suicide is the third-leading cause of death among young people, as a result of mental illness.
  • Schizophrenia is not a split personality. It is a serious brain disorder involving delusions, hallucinations and disorganized thoughts. However, it is treatable and people do recover.
  • Inaccurate, demeaning stereotypes and language only perpetuate prejudice and discrimination against people with mental illnesses-and have been denounced by the U.S. Surgeon General. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act and state laws, manufacturers and distributors may face legal liability.

David Gonzales
c/o Homie Shop
5055 Bus Center Drive, #108
Box 357
Fairfield, CA 94534

Peek-A-Boo Toys
7825 Airport Highway
Pennsauken, N.J. 08109
Phone: 856-317-9100
FAX: 856-317 -9718



During November 2002, a 12-year-old boy wrote the following letter to the Nickelodeon cable television channel's Vice President of Communications and the creator/writer of: "As Told By Ginger," an animated series for kids:

"I was watching television last night when I saw the episode "Lunatic Lake." I thought it was completely demeaning to describe the person who just escaped from an insane asylum as bipolar, dangerous and crazy. Not many bipolar people that I know move their eyes in circles and bark like dogs and I've known many…I think that you should make an episode of where there's a quiet bipolar kid who keeps getting bullied and eventually becomes very popular. That way you could teach people that being bipolar doesn't mean you're crazy. "

He never received a response.

This past month, NAMI received more complaints when Nickelodeon repeated the episode. Wrote one parent: "I was watching TV with my 9-year-old son…I was surprised to hear in the opening minutes of this cartoon a reference to a bipolar individual that was on the loose and considered a lunatic and emotionally unstable. Throughout the show a 'crazy' character was shown barking like a dog, with 'crazy' eyes and talking incoherently."

The episode is now being shown and repeated on Nickelodeon's subsidiary, Nickdisk, a round the clock network that shows Nickelodeon classics. NAMI believes it should be deleted from all programming. Please contact Nickelodeon and Klasky Csupo, the animation house:

  • The Lunatic Lake episode is extremely offensive and provides an inaccurate, stereotyped depiction of bipolar disorder, which is a serious brain disorder that can be treated.
  • One in five Americans struggle with mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, one in ten children and adolescents suffer from disorders severe enough to cause impairment, but fewer than one in five of them ever get treatment. One reason is the stigma generated by such cartoons.
  • Cartoons like the Lunatic Lake episode discourage kids from reporting symptoms or supporting peers. Children end up fearing taunts from peers who call them "lunatic" or similar terms. The episode puts children's health at risk. Today, suicide is the third-leading cause of death among youth, as a result of mental illnesses.

Creators: Edna Kapnek and Eryk Casemiro
Klasky Csupo Co.
6353 Sunset Boulevard
Hollywood, CA 90028
Fax: 323-468-2846

Dan Martinsen
Senior Vice President of Communications
Nickelodeon Channel
1515 Broadway, 37th floor
New York, NY 10036
Phone: 212-846-4985



Warner Brothers Video is due to release "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" in VHS/DVD on April 11, 2003, but has not yet disclosed whether the offensive "straitjacket scene" (or related outtakes) at the very end of the movie, following the credits, has been dropped. See

NAMI has no illusions about making a substantial dent in the Harry Potter marketing juggernaut, but out of principle, StigmaBusters, relatives and friends may want to refrain from renting or purchasing the it until the next update. If the scene has been deleted, WB's responsiveness to quiet diplomacy pursued since November 2002 can be applauded. If not, the scene will endure and be long remembered as one of the more infamous examples of stigma marketed to children.

WB Video's past president-who was fired in December 2002-is married to the chair of the National Mental Health Awareness Campaign, founded by Tipper Gore. case is viewed as a test of WB's institutional responsibility and sensitivity to stigma issues under the WB video division's new regime.



The New York City Human Rights Commission is pursuing complaints against NBC over Saturday Night Live (SNL). See.
As an initial test of a strategy, that step alone is a victory. We are awaiting NBC/SNL's response to a Commission offer of formal mediation. In its submission to the Commission, NAMI noted that "corporations created by and operating under the benefits of law" have both rights and responsibilities; they "should be held accountable for public injuries" created by or perpetuated by actions involving stigma and discrimination.


A recent Dairy Queen television commercial featured talking cakes proclaiming "I hear voices" about words decorated on them. The company's communications director listened to NAMI concerns by phone, and acknowledged that other complaints had been received. The commercial was withdrawn, with a promise to keep a closer watch on advertisements developed by their ad agency. He expressed strong appreciation for NAMI's call. Please take the time send a special note thanking Dairy Queen for its responsiveness:

Dean Peters
Communications Director
International Dairy Queen Inc.
7505 Metro Blvd., #500
Edina, MN 55439
Fax: 952-830-0498


Readers who receive copies of StigmaBuster Alerts from friends or other networks occasionally send emails asking to be signed up by the program coordinator or other staff. However, individuals must sign-up directly (for free) through the NAMI Website, which is easily accessed by clicking
See more information below.

Please continue to watch, listen and report! Your efforts do make a difference!

Stella March, National Coordinator
NAMI StigmaBusters

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.

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

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 or via regular mail. Please make checks payable to NAMI and send to P.O. Box 79972, Baltimore, MD 21279-0972, or donate through the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC #0538).

# # #