Ms. Stella March
NAMI StigmaBusters, with its dedicated advocates across the country and around the world, are successfully fighting the pervasive and hurtful stigma that exists toward persons with mental illness -and- also commending print media, TV and films that send accurate messages to the public.
NAMI StigmaBusters now number 8,600. Numbers do count, so let your voice be heard.
On September 14, the U.S. Postal Service will issue a postage stamp honoring Nellie Bly as one of four women pathfinding journalists in American History. Bly (1864-1922) was born Elizabeth Jane Cochran in Cochrans Mills, PA and took her pen name from a popular Stephen Foster song.
At 23 Bly moved to New York City to work for the crusading newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer. From day one, she took risks of all sorts to get accurate, first hand information. For her first assignment she feigned insanity in order to be committed to the Women's Lunatic Asylum on Blackwells Island (now Roosevelt Island) and to expose the poor treatment of patients. Her focus on social issues helped open the journalism profession to women who wanted to write "hard news" rather than be relegated to light features and society columns.
Last month we succeeded in persuading in Sears, Inc. to withdraw T-shirts from its stores carrying the message: "You should hear the NAMES the VOICES in my head are calling you." The shirts perpetuated stigma through the intimation of threats flowing from auditory hallucinations.
NAMI has now asked four other national department store chains to follow suit: Wal-Mart, Kmart, Kohl's, and Target. In addition to registering complaints with local store managers, please contact the following:
Mr. H. Lee Scott
President & CEO
702 S.W. 8th Street Street
Bentenville, AR 72716
Wal-Mart Customer Service: 1-800-966-6546
James B. Adamson, CEO/Chairman
3100 West Big Beaver Road
Troy, MI 48084
FAX (248) 637-6611
Mr. Larry Montgomery, CEO
Kohl's Department Stores Inc.
N54W 13901 Woodale Drive
Menomonee Falls, WI 53051
Customer Service 1-866-877-8884 FAX 262-703-6796
Mr. Robert Ulrich, Chairman/CEO
1000 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55403
(612) 370-6948 or 6627
FAX (612) 696-5226
As if the Smith & Wollensky Restaurant ads from this summer weren't bad enough (for which an apology has yet to be received)! Haven't people learned how cruel and tortuous a symbol straightjackets actually are to people with mental illnesses and their families?
Last year, NAMI protested a Halloween costume called "Mental Patient" sold in many stores and produced by Disguise, Inc., an international enterprise considered the world's largest costume company. The costume included a canvas straight jacket with straps and a "Hannibal Lecter" style facemask.
Benoit Pousset, president of Disguise, answered NAMI's 2001 protest by declaring that the company's intent was not to harm anyone in anyway, but only to "increase the fun of Halloween, an increasingly popular holiday in the United States." He promised to take our concerns "under advisement."
Unfortunately, Disguise still doesn't get it. This year, they merely changed the name of the costume to "Straight Jacket." When contacted last week by NAMI, Pousset's representative accused StigmaBusters of trying to censor them.
Whether called a rose or a cactus, the costume still has thorns. StigmaBusters are asked to contact Mr. Pousset and all store managers where the costume is sold. Tell them that it is profoundly offensive - and such images never would be tolerated involving a cancer or AIDS patient. In fact, the company and any store that sells the costume may risk liability under antidiscrimination law.
Mr. Benoit Pousset, President
11906 Tech Center Ct.
Poway, CA 92064
Phone: (858) 391-3600
FAX: (858) 39l-3601
"Spirit Halloween" Superstores are run seasonally by Spencer Gifts and owned by Universal Studios, which earlier this year distributed the movie, "A Beautiful Mind." We therefore were disappointed to learn recently that one of the stores in Frederick, Maryland featured a large cardboard display figure in gray sweats looking frightening with large teeth, with the label "Mental Patient" across his chest, leering out of a window.
We contacted Spirit Halloween Superstore headquarters, which fortunately explained that each store does its own window dressing. They quickly promised that the display in Frederick would be changed. If you sight anything similar in your local mall, complain to the manager, but also let us know, with the name of the store, mall, city and state. We may be able to help.
We appreciate your reports and your help. Remember, Mental Illness Awareness Week is October 6-12, 2002.
Stella March, Coordinator
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We look forward to hearing from you!