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NAMI StigmaBusters Alert: August 30, 2004


Halloween Horrors To Drive "Visitors Insane" At Universal Orlando Theme Parks

NAMI members in Florida reported shock and dismay to learn about the stigmatizing mental illness theme for Universal Orlando Theme Parks Halloween Horrors Events for the Month of October 2004. This Theme Park attracts tourists from around the U.S. and the world to Orlando.

Publicity media kits including a committal form to a fictitious psychiatric ward for a visitor who might be "driven insane" by the planned Halloween Horror event and a personalized straight jacket for each reporter indicates insensitivity and ignorance.

Their web site features a man in a straight jacket with horrific head movements and facial expressions, headlined "Halloween Horror Nights® at Universal Orlando® the biggest, most terrifying Halloween event ever…including all new haunted houses and four inescapable scare zones."

A NAMI StigmaBusters letter sent to Robert Gault, President & CEO of Universal Orlando Studios Theme Park has not been acknowledged.

Please send or fax your message to:

Mr. Robert Gault, President & CEO
Universal Orlando Studios
1000 Universal Studios Plaza
Orlando, Florida 32819-7610
General Information: (407) 363-8000
FAX: (407) 224-6922

And to an important corporate partner at the theme park

E. Neville Isdell, Chairman & CEO
The Coca-Cola Corp
One Coca-Cola Plaza
Atlanta, GA 30301
(404) 676-2121
Fax: (404) 676-6792

Points to make (In your own words):

  • Featuring "fear to drive people insane" is offensive, outrageous, inaccurate and hurtful. No one can be "driven insane." Severe mental illnesses are biologically based brain disorders that strike one in five persons of all races, cultures and socio-ethnic backgrounds during their lifetime.
  • Featuring a man wrapped in a straight jacket with distraught facial expressions and head movements is most traumatic for all real persons who have experienced this most dehumanizing restriction.
  • Highlighting stereotypes and myths of past centuries generates among individuals with symptoms of mental illness a real fear of facing public stigma and discrimination and keeps them from seeking the treatment they need.
  • The stigmatizing mental illness theme runs counter to the recommendations of the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report and the President’s Commission on Mental Health Report that created the ADS (Addressing Discrimination and Stigma) Campaign to break the barriers of stigma so individuals who have struggled to recover may live and participate in a supportive, understanding community.

  • Reminder: Oscar winning film "A Beautiful Mind", which also received NAMI’s top media award, is a Universal Picture portraying how a person with a severe mental illness can recover with total community support.
  • Please reconsider the Halloween Horrors mental health theme and eliminate any mental illness association with discriminatory stereotypes, images and language. Your creative staff can choose from many other truly scary horrors in this world to frighten the visitors to this event.

New Sitcom Season Renews "Hope And Faith" Series On ABC

The season finale on May 24th as well as previous episodes presented hurtful and stigmatizing portrayals and language. In our NAMI message to the Producer and Writers I informed them about the impact of such story lines that reflected ignorance and insensitivity to the struggles of real persons with severe mental illnesses and their families. Coincidentally along with treatment and rehabilitation, their "hope and faith" provide supportive strengths on their road to recovery.

No direct response. However, most important is whether any new episodes for "Hope And Faith" will show a new understanding -- that persons with mental illness deserve the same respect as those with all other disorders of the body.

Invitation to StigmaBusters attending NAMI National Convention:

Please join us at a Round Table Discussion about busting stigma and discrimination, on Thursday, September 9th, from 1:00 to 3:00 pm. We look forward to meeting you!

Stella March, National Coordinator

NAMI StigmaBusters

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