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STIGMA AND DISCRIMINATION

NAMI condemns all acts of stigma and discrimination directed against persons with mental illnesses, whether by intent, ignorance, or insensitivity.  Epithets, nicknames, jokes, advertisements, and slurs that refer to persons with serious mental illnesses in a stigmatizing way are cruel.  NAMI considers acts of stigma to be discrimination.

NAMI believes, in accordance with current scientific evidence, that persons who are receiving appropriate treatment and services for a mental illness are no more violent than the population at large.  NAMI deplores the portrayal in literature, films, and television of persons with serious mental illnesses as being prone to violence.  These frequent depictions are hurtful stereotypes.  The truth is that persons with serious mental illnesses are more often the victims of violence.

NAMI further believes that mental illness is essentially biological in nature. Mental illness affects behavior and behavior can affect mental illness - but mental illnesses are not behavioral.  The term “behavioral health” obscures and hinders effective treatment of co-occurring disorders.  Also, because behavior is perceived as a matter of choice (“good” or “bad” behavior), the very term “behavioral health” can add to the stigma and discrimination endured by people living with a mental illness.

NAMI especially deplores the exploitation of people with mental illnesses by journalists, advertisers, advertising agencies, the entertainment industry, and others for commercial gain or other advantage.

Stigma and resulting discrimination can be an especially prevalent challenge in the military services, the National Guard and Reserves. Some mental illnesses do occur in the context of traumatic exposures to war.  Mental illnesses must not be allowed to stigmatize and limit opportunities for continued military service and advancement.

 


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