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StigmaBusting Network and Alerts


NAMI Campaign to End Discrimination
August 2000.

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 mental illness.

NAMI StigmaBusters now number more than 5,000. Numbers do count, so let your voice be heard.


  • StigmaBusters Guidelines
  • Me, Myself & Irene: An Update
  • The Simpsons: Conversation with the Producer
  • New Movie from Farrelly Brothers?

StigmaBusters Guidelines

Throughout the year, we receive hundreds of letters and emails from NAMI members alerting us to communications that perpetuate stigma toward mental illnesses and misrepresent the true nature of these brain disorders. These alarming situations may occur in film, television, advertising, marketing, or in the news media. We really appreciate our members making the effort to send this “intelligence” to us, even when we are not able to address every individual situation. It reminds us that we still have much work to do and that, collectively, we are providing a much-needed voice for change.

With the increased StigmaBusters activity of the past year, and with our army of NAMI StigmaBusters passing the 5,000 mark, we thought it would be helpful if we shared some basic guidelines we use to determine where to direct our efforts.

General Criteria:

- NAMI StigmaBusters Alerts focus on high profile, national situations that have or may potentially have a significant impact on public attitudes toward mental illness. These situations, which can occur in all media, including movies, television programs, commercial products, magazine articles, and advertisements, reinforce stigma through inaccurate and/or offensive portrayals and/or language dealing with mental illnesses.

- StigmaBusters does not deal with single words like loony, wacko, nuts, or crazy, when used casually in any type of communications. We may not like the use of these terms in any situation, but we cannot influence all such cases. On the other hand, when used as an integral part of the communications, we will address it. (For example, Nestle’s used the names Psycho Sam, Loony Jerry, Weird Wally in a line of candy reinforcing mean-spirited language with its target market, youngsters and teenagers. This was a case to which NAMI StigmaBusters strongly objected and won as Nestle withdrew these candy bars for renaming and repackaging.)

- Let your voice by heard locally. Local situations must be handled locally, with people in the community sending letters to the local newspaper editor, to the radio station, and to local sponsors about an offensive commercial. (Due to the sheer number, the national StigmaBusters Alerts are not able to address these situations.) We’ve heard from many StigmaBusters who have reported that such commercials have been cancelled with just one local letter.

- The situation needs to be reported by at least five people across the country before we formally evaluate it.

A Word About the Internet:

- 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 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 an internet comment line makes a powerful difference. For example, after being deluged by emails from NAMI StigmaBusters, the World Wide Wrestling (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:

- 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 NAMI StigmaBusters Coordinator Stella March at

Thanks for everything you do. Together, we are making a difference!

Me, Myself & Irene: An Update

Thank you for joining in NAMI’s vocal opposition to the Jim Carrey movie, “Me, Myself and Irene.” The powerful combination of your efforts and NAMI’s aggressive media strategy sent a loud and clear message to the entertainment industry that “it’s not OK to make fun of people with mental illnesses.” Even though we couldn’t stop the movie, the good news is that our letters, emails, faxes, news releases, and numerous media interviews did have an impact.

For example:

- Promotional campaign changes - A week before the release of “Me, Myself & Irene,” 20th Century Fox newspaper ads eliminated the split head of Jim Carrey with the statement “From Gentle to Mental” and replaced it with the visual of his full laughing face with adjectives describing his comedic antics and stunts in the movie.

- Jim Carrey media interviews later switched to a focus on his risky stunts, with accompanying movie clips.

- Box office returns down – First-week box office returns were a weak #1 and then slipped out of sight in the wake of the real summer blockbusters.

NAMI Action: Unfortunately, Jim Carrey declined to participate in a NAMI public service announcement to educate the public about the true nature of mental illnesses.

The Simpsons: Conversation with the Producer

Situation: A recent episode of The Simpsons featured Marge Simpson ostracized by the whole town after being in an insane asylum. On the “Krusty The Klown” show (part of the show) Krusty’s comments included introducing her as "the woman who just flew in from the cuckoo's nest" and also presented the "dancing Marge Simpsons" where they were all dancing in straight jackets. Additional classic stereotypes included attempting to catch Marge with “butterfly nets and stun guns.“

NAMI Action: We reached the “Simpsons” executive producer by phone and discussed our concerns about the stereotypical portrayals and stressed that mental illness is not a laughing matter. We urged him not to repeat this particular episode or to deal with mental illness in this fashion in future episodes. He listened and apologized for the unintended offense.

Next Step: Should there be any repetition of offensive or stereotypical portrayals or language, we will alert you to send a message.

The Farrelly Brothers: At It Again?

News Flash: We have just learned that Peter and Bobby Farrelly, producers of Me, Myself & Irene, have just wrapped up shooting for a new romantic comedy, “Say It Isn’t So,” which is scheduled for release in February 2001. The movie, which stars Sally Field, Heather Graham, and Chris Klein, features a “mental patient,” according to one report published recently in The Boston Globe. Details on the script are still sketchy, but based on past Farrelly products, we don’t expect good things. We will update you as information becomes available, and will enlist the support of our NAMI StigmaBusters at the earliest moment possible.

We are also investigating other films and television series for release later this year and for 2001.

That’s all for now, folks. Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Stella March, StigmaBusters Coordinator

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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