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!
*State Department Attacks Newt Gingrich with Psychiatric Slur
*April 11, 2003: Weekend of Infamy; Protest ‘The Practice’
*Montel Williams Preaches Stigma
Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich, threw the first stone, but that does not excuse the State Department’s #2 head.
Gingrich recently denounced the State Department under Secretary of State Colin Powell as "ineffective and incoherent" in handling foreign policy, while praising the Department of Defense for having "delivered diplomatically and…militarily" in Iraq and other regions of the world. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage responded: "It’s clear that Mr. Gingrich is off his meds and out of therapy."
Regardless of what anyone thinks about Newt Gingrich, or for that matter President Bush’s foreign and military policies, personal attacks that use the stigma associated with brain disorders to discredit political opponents are outrageous and unacceptable. StigmaBusters are asked to contact Secretary of State Colin Powell to demand that Armitage be reprimanded and apologize. Key points to consider:
*President Bush and the U.S. Surgeon General have both called for the elimination of stigma as a matter of national policy.
*Secretary Powell knows about depression through his family’s own experience and knows first-hand the cruelty of stigma.
*Armitage’s statement is especially disgusting in light of the fact that Gingrich’s mother has bipolar disorder.
*We would like to think that the United States has moved beyond the point in 1972—when Senator Thomas Eagleton (D-MO) was dropped as the Democratic; vice- presidential candidate because of a history of treatment for depression. After retiring from the Senate, Eagleton continued to serve the nation as a member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.
*Armitage’s statement would never have been tolerated if he had tried to discredit Vice-President Richard Cheney based on heart disease or former Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole based on his disabled arm.
*Whether Republican or Democrat, Americans have a right to expect a higher level of dialogue and debate by public officials.
The Honorable Colin Powell Send copy to:
We tried not to get hopes up that Warner Brothers (WB) Video would do the right thing and take out the straitjacket scene at the end of the VHS/DVD version of "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets." We also knew we needed to brace ourselves for the release of the movie "Anger Management," starring Jack Nicholson and Adam Sandler, which of course is only a comedy, right? But both releases—on the same weekend—were worse than anyone imagined.
WB not only kept the straitjacket scene in the "Harry Potter" VHS/DVD version, but added insult to injury—by including an extra scene on the DVD in which one student calls another "mental" as a punch-line. There is no way to stop the marketing juggernaut aimed especially at children, but out of principle, StigmaBusters may want to refrain from purchasing or renting the video—and send one last letter to WB Video to express disgust with its lack of social responsibility.
Offensive language like "psycho" and "wacko" also was predictable. But what crossed the line was the opening scene in which a 5th grade bully’s behavior is explained as the result of his being upset because his sister was insane—who is then shown sitting on the steps in the schoolyard in a straitjacket. Even worse, when Nicholson forces Sandler to "confront his anger" years later by standing up to the bully (who has since become a Buddhist monk) Sandler goads him into a fight by gloating that he sexually molested his sister.
*Please protest the movie’s cruel imagery of a child in a straitjacket and the utter obscenity of any joke premised on sexual abuse of a person with mental illness. Neither is a laughing matter.
*Ask Columbia Pictures (owned by Sony Pictures) to eliminate the scenes in the DVD version, and to offset the damage done by also donating a portion of its profits to a children’s antistigma campaign. Mention the California’s EBI.
John Calley, Chairman & CEO Amy Pascal, Chairman
Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc. Columbia Pictures
10202 W. Washington Blvd. 10202 W. Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232 Culver City, CA 90232
Phone: 310-244-4000 Phone: 310-244-4000
Fax: 310-244-2626 Fax: 310-244-2626
As courtroom dramas go, ABC-TV’s ‘The Practice’ has a mixed record. Earlier this season, the show featured a moving, realistic story line about a woman with schizophrenia whose plea of not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI) failed—who then was ordered to be medicated against her will so that she would be "competent" to be executed. At the 11th hour, the judge ruled that under the circumstances, the death sentence was unconstitutional.
Increasingly, however, the series has mixed NGRI and mental illness issues with plot lines involving serial killers and in some cases bizarre jokes or sight gags. The April 7th episode finally crossed the line. In an episode intended as a satire of "reality" television shows, actress Andie McDowell guest-starred as a woman with bipolar disorder who kidnapped CBS-TV network president Les Moonves and held him hostage: threatening to kill him on national television while playing Russian roulette with a cannon. The episode reinforced the worst stereotypes of people with mental illnesses being prone to violence and mocked the justice of treatment under NGRI verdicts.
What is sad is that the show’s producer, David E. Kelley, once helped to break television’s stigma barrier by developing a positive, supporting character with a developmental disability—"Benny"—as part of the show "L.A. Law" in the 1980s. He has the power to make the same kind of breakthrough today by developing sympathetic characters such as a lawyer who successfully manages bipolar disorder or a person in recovery from schizophrenia who works as a peer counselor in a court diversion program.
Please protest the April 7th episode and the show’s worsening trend. Ask Kelley to instead start helping to eliminate stigma and support recovery.
David E. Kelley
David Kelley Productions
20th Century Fox TV
10201 West Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90035
Email ABC’s Audience Relations at: firstname.lastname@example.org
On Tuesday, April 15, 2003, the Montel Williams Show aired an outrageous and inaccurate program on the treatment and diagnosis of ADHD. NAMI has strongly objected to the show’s biased and unprofessional presentation of childhood mental illnesses and misinformation communicated to families cross the country.
No matter what a person may believe about psychiatrists and psychiatric medication, public debate should not perpetuate stigma by using cruel, inaccurate stereotypes to characterize people who choose to take medication (particularly children). Outrageously, Williams compared children on medication to ‘crack babies,’ with references to ‘kiddie cocaine’ and high school shooters with ‘sniper rifles.’ His remarks were inflammatory and inappropriate, representing the very kind of ignorance, prejudice and discrimination which the U.S. Surgeon General has identified as discouraging people from getting help when they need it. Frankly, Williams should know better. According to a Paramount Television spokesperson, he himself has multiple sclerosis and considers himself to be an advocate for people with that neurological disorder. He also takes pride in considering his talk show to have a higher standard of discussion than that on Jerry Springer’s. Please contact him to set him straight:
Montel Williams, Executive Producer
The Montel Williams Show
433 West 53rd St.
New York, NY 10019-5603 Fax: 212-262-4602
It is important that copies of complaints also be sent to local TV stations that carry the show. To find out which stations in your area carry the program, check local newspaper listings or the show's website: http://www.montelshow.com.
*David Gonzales, creator of "Homie Clowns" has changed the characters on his Website that StigmBusters protested. The names " Psycho" and "Skitzo" have been eliminated and "Pyro" is no longer described offensively. See http://www.homies.tv/homieclowns.htm. However, ethnic groups may continue to be offended by the overall line of dolls.
*NAMI has continued to monitor Lunatix On-Line, the small Website community with approximately 300 subscribers. NAMI does not condone or endorse the game, but some players who are consumers have defended it. To date, no warning or disclaimer about stigma has been posted on the site. We will contact the owner again and report back on its status.
*Best-selling African American author Bebe Moore Campbell will be one of many prominent speakers at NAMI’s 24th annual convention, June 28-July 1, 2003 in Minneapolis.
Please join us in attending! We stand at a key moment in history to build partnerships for recovery and to confront the mental health crisis that is spreading in our communities. Convention program tracks include:
*How Recovery is Changing the Way We Think
*A Place to Call Home: Affordable Housing as a Foundation for Recovery
*Healthy Children: For Our Nation and Future
*New Allies Against Criminalization: Police and the Court System
*Welcoming People with Mental Illnesses into Faith Communities
*Tempest on Golden Pond: The Emerging Crisis in Geriatric Mental Illnesses
*With A Little Help From My Friends: Helping College Populations at Risk
*Rural Mental Health Care: The Department of Veterans Affairs Approach
We apologize for the delay in this month’s alert. T.S. Eliot once wrote: "April is the cruelest month" and the sheer volume of complaints about stigma seems to have increased even as the weather has grown warmer. Is that your perception too?
Please act on this month’s targets and continue to report stigma whenever and wherever you find it. Your efforts do make a difference!
Stella March, National 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; tens 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 NAMIStigmaBusters Alerts may sign up at www.nami.org/campaign/stigmabust.html.
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 www.nami.org/about/development/index.html 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).