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.
We received a few complaints initially in early July, when national advertisements announced the premiere of "Monk" a new cable television show on the USA Network-in which the main character was described only as an obsessive-compulsive detective, played by Tony Sharoub, who in the past has been known more for comedy than police drama.
But after the July 12th premiere, praise came pouring in. Private detective Adrian Monk indeed struggles with severe anxiety and obsessive-compulsive symptoms-triggered by the unsolved murder of his wife a few years before. His disability resulted in his being let go from the San Francisco police department, except that he continues to be three steps ahead of them in solving cases. Perhaps ironically, Monk's former boss, the chief of detectives who nurses a love-hate relationship with him, is played by the same actor who two years ago played the chief psychiatrist in the hospital of the infamous "Wonderland" series that lasted only two episodes.
But Monk is no Wonderland.
Monk is the show's protagonist. His portrayal of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is realistic and respectful. One NAMI member reported: "My son has been struggling with OCD for over 10 years and he found it funny. He got to see someone struggling with some of the same symptoms and somehow it helped to see that it was okay. It also showed the kindness of other people when dealing with a disorder and that this detective was still able to do a good job."
StigmaBusters will continue to monitor Monk to ensure that the premiere's quality is maintained in subsequent episodes.
Please tune in with us and let us know what you think.
This one is so bad that many NAMI members initially couldn't believe that it was true-and not a hoax over the Internet.
On July 10, The Trentonian, a tabloid newspaper in Trenton, New Jersey, reported the story of a three-alarm fire at the Trenton Psychiatric Hospital-the same facility where Nobel Prize winner John Nash, Jr. was once treated. The front page used codewords about the fire like "Out of Control" and "Wreaks Havoc," which by themselves were not objectionable. But then, on page three, the story was headlined "Roasted Nuts."
Fortunately, no one was killed or injured in the fire. In testimony before President Bush's "New Freedom" Commission on Mental Health on July 18, NAMI president Jim McNulty pointed to the headline as the kind of prejudice and discrimination (i.e., stigma) that "devalues" people with mental illness and leads to lack of public investment in treatment and recovery.
Following protests by NAMI New Jersey and NAMI Pennsylvania members, the copyeditor who wrote the headline apologized in a column the very next day. But the apology was unpersuasive and inadequate. In a letter to the newspaper's publisher, NAMI executive director Rick Birkel called it "a failure of internal leadership and gross institutional irresponsibility" and warned of legal implications.
"Under the Americans with Disabilities Act and potentially other federal and state laws, the headline provides evidence of a hostile work environment for people with mental illnesses or their family members," Birkel warned. Statistically, that could be 20 percent of its employees. NAMI is investigating possible legal action. Meanwhile, the newspaper is signaling that it will run a series about advancements in treatment of mental illness-but frankly, that may not be enough.
NAMI's concern over institutional culture and hostility toward people with mental illness, as reflected in the incident, extends beyond the Trentonian. The newspaper is owned by the Journal Register Company (based in Trenton) which also owns 22 other daily newspapers, 224 non-daily publications and 139 Websites, representing the largest on-line newspaper network in the United States (See www.journalregister.com). The JRC boasts of providing a "responsive medium" for readers and "a stimulating environment for its employees." Its properties include the New Haven Register, CTCentral.com, allaroundphilly.com, AllAroundCleveland.com, MidHudsonCentral.com, The Saratogian, Troy Record, and Oneida Daily Dispatch.
We're not sure we understand the renewed popularity of straight-jackets in the media, particularly advertising. To many, they represent an instrument of torture and pain and convey a deeply stigmatizing suggestion of violence.
In the spring, Proctor & Gamble had the good sense - and graciousness - to pull its television commercial in which a bottle of "Sunny Delight" was restrained in a straight-jacket. Unfortunately, MTV still has yet to respond to complaints about music videos using straight-jackets as props, passed on by the National Mental Health Awareness Campaign - even though MTV has produced some of the Campaign's own public service announcements (PSA's).
And then there's the Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group (SWRG)-which in May and June ran full-page ads in the New York Times for the Park Avenue Cafe (located in New York and Chicago). The ads depicted the executive chef, David Burke, wearing a straightjacket and standing over the slogan: "There's a fine line between genius and madness." (A common-enough saying which unfortunately distorts and trivializes public understanding of mental illness, especially for people who are just average).
After two months, the company finally discontinued the ads in response to complaints.
Please let us know about any responses you get-particularly if anyone at either restaurant says that they would not seat or hire a person with a mental illness. Take good notes of telephone conversations (and make sure you get names!)
Here are two stories in one.
At the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association earlier this year, Janssen Pharmaceutica - whom NAMI StigmaBusters thanks for their support and generosity - issued a challenge. For every psychiatrist attending the convention who signed up to receive NAMI's StigmaBuster Alerts, the company "matched" them with a monetary contribution. At NAMI's recent convention in Cincinnati, Janssen presented the StigmaBusters program with a check for $5,000. In turn, Stigmabusters decided to donate the $5000 to NAMI's "Many Beautiful Minds" Endowment campaign, which was launched at the convention. It was an important, symbolic gesture-made on behalf of all consumers on disability or limited income who cannot afford to make a minimum $1000 pledge to the campaign. It recognizes their contributions, in so many other ways.
The Endowment intends to raise $5 million by June 2004 - NAMI's 25th Anniversary - and is an important investment in the future. The Endowment will serve as a foundation for NAMI's continued efforts, including Stigmabusting, to build a world class treatment and recovery system.
For more information about the Endowment campaign, please contact Joleen Bagwell, NAMI Development Department, 2107 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 300, Arlington, Virginia 22204 or by e-mail email@example.com .
Split Personality vs. Multiple Personality vs. Dissociative Identity Disorder
We have received many messages about the usage of "multiple personality," which has been changed to Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), including the following comment from the president-elect of the California Psychiatric Association, who is a NAMI StigmaBuster from Los Angeles County:
"There is such a thing as multiple personality disorder which is a result of severe and usually sexual abuse in childhood. There are many, including psychiatrists, who think there is no such thing, and indeed, it manifests itself only in the context of intensive relationships (or under hypnosis, where it can be a problem in unskilled hands, for these patients are very volatile). The correct nomenclature for it in DSM-IV is now "Dissociative Identity Disorder" which better describes what the problem is. Now I don't know what you can do with this information. Every time someone says "split personality" tell them they should have said, "DID"? Surely not. I say just keep on enlightening the world as to the cruelty of making fun of people with mental problems, whatever they may be. Thank you again for what you do."
In choosing targets, we have to set priorities and pick fights carefully. At the same time, we appreciate every complaint we receive. You are our eyes and ears.
Thank you for posting our Alerts on your bulletin boards and forwarding them to friends. Encourage people to join in supporting each month's recommended actions as a means of educating individuals and institutions.
Stella March, Coordinator
NAMI StigmaBusters Email Alert
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!