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Stigma_Alerts_Archive

StigmaBusting Network and Alerts

NAMI CAMPAIGN STIGMA BUSTERS EMAIL ALERT Update

NAMI Campaign to End Discrimination
12 May 2000.

Contact Information:

Ms. Stella March

smarch@nami.org


NAMI StigmaBusters with its dedicated advocates across the country are successfully fighting the pervasive and damaging stigma that exists toward mental illness.

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Numbers count and our numbers continue to grow. We hope to reach our goal of 5,000 by the NAMI Convention, being held in San Diego, CA, June 14-18, 2000.

CONTENTS OF TODAY’s NAMI STIGMABUSTER ALERT:

1. Titus

2. Me, Myself & Irene

3. Wonderland

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1. Titus, comedy series on FOX television, May 8th episode

Background: Lead actor, Christopher Titus, plays the lead character using his own name, in this weekly comedy series on FOX television. Titus created and wrote the series based on his growing up in a dysfunctional family. His mother, who has schizophrenia and manic depression (schizo-affective disorder) had been institutionalized for much of his youth. His alcoholic father raised him and taught him how to deal with life’s problems, including the demeaning language referring to his mother living in the "booby hatch", the "nut farm", and calling her "looney tunes".

Situation: The May 8th episode was particularly egregious in portraying Titus’ outrageous reactions and interactions when his mother, who after being discharged from a mental institution, returns home.

Message Points:

  • The Titus program, and in particular this episode, presents one of the most damaging portrayals and destructive images of mental illness now being shown on national television. The portrayal and language reinforces in the public’s mind the stereotype of fear of violence by all persons with mental illness. Furthermore, it perpetrates the pervasive stigma that exists toward mental illnesses.
  • Mental illnesses—debilitating disorders of the brain—are as devastating as

cancer, diabetes, HIV, heart disease, and strokes, and need to be accorded the same respect and dignity. None of these disorders deserves to be the butt of humor. All are far from laughable.

  • This episode was hurtful, demeaning and dehumanizing to the one in five Americans who suffer from a mental illness, and to their family.
  • Simply suggesting that viewers go to the FOX web site which links them to KEN (the Knowledge Education Network of the Center for Mental Health Services), does not compensate for this outrageous portrayal of a person with mental illness. Nor does this information offer vindicate FOX Television for bringing forward such an irresponsible program.

We urge you to write letters of outrage to: askfox@inc.com, or Titus, FOX Television, P.O.Box 900, Beverly Hills, CA, 90213-0900. We have been told that Fox pays very close attention to the number of messages received via email.

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2. Me, Myself and Irene

We appreciate the many messages we have received about this outrageous movie produced by the Farrelly Brothers ("Dumb and Dumber" producers), and about the advertisements promoting this movie. While we do have means for dealing effectively with a TV series with messages to educate them for future episodes as above with Titus, we cannot stop or change a film starring Jim Carrey, a major box-office draw. We have checked this out. The only way we can express our reactions is by sending a message to askfox@inc.com. (FYI: Fox is the distributor of this film.) Although other stigma-fueling films (such as the remake of Psycho) rapidly decreased in ticket sales and quickly disappeared from the theatres, we expect good box office and a longer play with this one because of Jim Carrey’s popularity.

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3. Wonderland: NAMI Membership Reaction

Although the vast majority of NAMI members and others in the mental health community enthusiastically supported NAMI’s anti-stigma efforts related to the ABC series, Wonderland, we do want to acknowledge that we did hear from those who believed NAMI had taken too harsh a stand. Some individuals we heard from were concerned that NAMI appeared not to be trying to first work with the writer/producer to improve the portrayal of mental illness and to achieve more sensitivity and balance in the overall program. We appreciate hearing these concerns and know that not everyone who cares deeply and personally about mental illness will agree with everything we do. We do want to let you know that NAMI did try to work with the producer and ABC, and in fact we had an opportunity to review a script back in the Spring of 1999. However, NAMI’ s input was not accepted. Instead, the program’s initial episodes sent the message that persons with mental illness were violent and to be feared. We certainly know, only too well, the inadequacies of the mental health system and that Wonderland did present a slice of reality, albeit a very small slice. However, whenever we learn of any type of program or media story dealing with mental illness, NAMI will insist that the overall presentation be balanced with the messages that treatment works, there is hope, there is recovery.

 

Thank you for your many reports and support for NAMI StigmaBusters.

Together, we have made a difference and the demise of Wonderland has caught the attention of TV producers and writers. We look forward to meeting and talking to you at the NAMI Convention in San Diego in June. Please stop by to learn more about NAMI StigmaBusters at the Communications Booth, located in NAMILand in the Exhibit Hall in the Convention Center of the Town and Country Resort Hotel in San Diego, CA.

Stella March, StigmaBusters Coordinator

smarch@nami.org


New! Receive stigma alerts via e-mail! Click here to learn how you can join NAMI's stigma alert list to receive regular stigma alerts.

We look forward to hearing from you!


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