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StigmaBusting Network and Alerts


NAMI Campaign to End Discrimination
March 2001.

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 persons with mental illness. NAMI StigmaBusters now number almost 6,000. The stigma perpetuators count messages, so please send your message to be included in their count.



    Update on TV Shows:
  1. Will and Grace - 2/01/01 episode
  2. Maniax XFL
  3. Once and Again - 3/21/01 commendation
  4. Maurice Benard (ABC's General Hospital) - NAMI AWARD RECIPIENT

    Update on Films:

  5. US Surgeon General Dr. Satcher Comments
  6. A Beautiful Mind, John Forbes Nash Jr.
  7. K-PAX - Science Fiction meets Awakenings


1. WILL AND GRACE - Episode 2/01/01

As many StigmaBusters reported, Grace faked a personality disorder so her therapist would write a note for her to avoid jury duty. Reading this note, her friends showed a sudden fear of violence by Grace, used stereotypical language like "psycho", and cruel jokes about persons with a mental illness. This episode was most offensive and hurtful.

We informed the producers of " Will and Grace," that mental illness is not a laughing matter or source of humor for real people struggling with a mental illness or for their family. Additionally, this episode sent a message to the public highlighting stereotypes and perpetuating the stigma that all people with a mental illness are dangerous and should be avoided. Statistics indicate that one in every five Individuals will suffer a mental illness. Their recovery requires support, not fear nor discrimination from the community.

We did receive a response from the producers, saying that they meant no offense with this episode. We acknowledged the response with a request that they not repeat this episode in the future.

Should this episode be repeated, we will immediately send out an Action Alert.


NBC and XFL did not respond to the many StigmaBusters messages. However, TV ratings for their games which started low, have continued to plummet. The good news is: Current reports indicate XFL will not be renewed next year.

3.ONCE AND AGAIN Commendation 3/21/01

We sent a letter of commendation and appreciation for the overall, hour - long episode dealing with Aaron, the brother with schizophrenia, which most realistically and sensitively portrayed his first overnight visit to his sister's home. From the time Aaron arrived, hugging his valise, and declaring that he was "doing better," his extraordinary acting with an extraordinary script that reflected his feelings and his auditory hallucinations as he interacted with members of his family.

This total episode presented the NAMI message to families: Accept your relative without judgment while you provide the love and support needed as he/she progresses with small steps toward recovery.

Although one viewer reported offense about "Once and Again" (3/21/01) which had a character say, "at least my brother is not insane" and also used the word "crazy" referring to mental illness, this total episode did merit the commendation.

NAMI presented "Once and Again" with the TV Media Award for the sensitive portrayal of the Aaron character at his father's funeral at NAMI's Annual Convention in June 2000.


Maurice Benard plays Sonny Corinithos in the ABC daytime TV soap, "General Hospital." When Benard recently received the Soap Opera Digest Award as "Favorite Actor", he concluded his acceptance remarks with a very emotional, primetime call to "all you manic-depressives out there, to never give up hope." He continues to help break down barriers of ignorance and stigma, speaking openly and repeatedly about his own serious bipolar disorder, hospitalizations and recovery.

NAMI will recognize Maurice Benard with its Lionel Aldridge Award for 2001. Benard will be at the Saturday evening banquet at the NAMI Convention on July 14th, 2001 to receive this honor.



Dr. David Satcher, U.S.Surgeon General, commented recently at a meeting with Hollywood entertainment leaders that TV and films can educate people about mental illness, and that screenplays depicting mental illness can help the public learn that these are real disorders that are treatable. "In your (films) shows," he said, " you have a greater ability to disseminate information and attitudes than we (health professionals) do alone." This is essential to increase the hope for recovery and to reduce pervasive stigma.

NAMI looks forward to films for release by the end of year that may present such appropriate portrayals including:


"A Beautiful Mind," is the biography of John Forbes Nash Jr. a mathematical genius who after 20 years lost to schizophrenia, recovered at age 50 to continue his research and receive the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1994. This film is currently in production for release in early December. Ron Howard is directing with Russell Crowe, the Oscar Award recipient, in the lead role.

NAMI recognized John Forbes Nash Jr. with NAMI's President's Award in 1999 at the 20th Anniversary Convention for his life story that dramatizes the NAMI message that treatment works and that recovery is possible


This science fiction novel by Gene Brewer, is set in a psychiatric hospital, where a new patient (Kevin Spacey) called "Prot" claims to be an alien from the planet K-PAX. The author used his own name for the psychiatrist, Dr. Gene Brewer (Jeff Bridges). He is fascinated by "Prot" who has considerable knowledge about outer space, but can provide no information about himself.

As "Prot" interacts with the troubled residents of the hospital, they undergo wondrous transformations and, one by one, shake off lives encumbered by mental disorders and become happy functioning people. How this all plays out in the film version remains to be seen, when it is released in October.

Meanwhile, the novel is available in paperback.


The February StigmaBusters Alert included an alert for DEBS FUN PAGE on the Internet. Several StigmaBusters had reported this so called "fun page" mocked symptoms of mental disorders. For several years mockeries of symptoms have been adapted for seasonal events, even Christmas Cards. DEBS FUN PAGE adapted it on 1/18/01 for an answering machine as follows:

"Hello, and welcome to the mental health hotline. If you are obsessive-compulsive: press 1 repeatedly, if you are co-dependent: please ask someone to press 2 for you; if you are paranoid: we know who you are and what you want, stay on the line so we can trace your call; if you are delusional: press 7 and your call will be transferred to the mother ship; if you are schizophrenic: listen carefully and a small voice will tell you which number to press; if you are manic-depressive, it doesn't matter which number you press - no-one will answer" etc. and winds up with "click here to pass the fun along!!!"

We recommended as ACTION: These symptoms are no fun. Mental illness is not a laughing matter. Email: "Debs Fun Pages."

I received several messages from participants who were not offended by Debs Fun Pages. They reported getting a good laugh out of this and other take-offs. They suggested we focus instead on the big stigma situations. We appreciate their input. Big stigma situations do have top priority for StigmaBusters Email Alerts.

We also want to recognize the many StigmaBusters who report and respond successfully to their local situations. With or without our assistance, as local residents, they send messages to their local radio stations, sponsors, and newspaper advertisers who do respond to local customers. IT DOES WORK! In most reported cases, the offensive material is withdrawn.

We appreciate your eyes and ears, which alert us to situations that are offensive, inaccurate, stereotypical, and which perpetuate pervasive stigma. However, we also commend portrayals and story lines that support NAMI's message that treatment works and recovery is possible.

Together we do make a difference!

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!

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