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NAMI StigmaBusters: August 25, 2008


Take This Survey!

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is preparing to grade each of the 50 states on public mental health services in 2009 and needs your help. Please take this online survey and forward it to others. It includes a Spanish version. 

Anyone age 18 or older who has been diagnosed with a serious mental illness or who has an adult family member with a diagnosed mental illness can take the survey. The survey will remain online until September 30, 2008, and takes about 15 minutes to complete. Responses are anonymous.

Specific survey questions include whether public mental health services in a state are easy to find, convenient, affordable and without waiting lists—as well as whether they are sensitive to cultural backgrounds.

Hollywood Stigma

Two of the summer’s blockbuster movies show that insensitivity, if not pure, unadulterated stigmatization, still lives in Hollywood.

Batman: The Dark Knight

Many StigmaBusters have condemned a scene in The Dark Knight in which Gotham City’s district attorney interrogates one of the Joker’s henchmen. Batman dismisses him as “a paranoid schizophrenic” who exemplifies “the type of mind” attracted to the villain. Because of the Joker’s violence, there is “guilt by association” that perpetuates a false, stigmatizing stereotype.

Now that initial hoopla around the movie premiere has passed, it’s time to seek a dialogue with Warner Bros. studios and director and screenwriter, Christopher Nolan. Asking him to use their power and talent to bust stigma. In your own words, please make these key points:

  • The U.S. Surgeon General has reported that stigma is one of the greater barriers to people seeking help and recovery from serious mental illnesses.
  • “Paranoid schizophrenic” defines a person by their illness, not as a human being. The scene made a major, stigmatizing impression on audiences.
  • The movie portrayed people with schizophrenia only as violent villains; no positive characters living with mental illness balanced the stereotype.
  • Please help fight stigma—we challenge you to include positive themes and portrayals in your movies.

Barry Meyer
Chairman &CEO
Warner Bros. Entertainment
4000 Warner Blvd
Burbank,CA 91522

Christopher Nolan (please forward)
c/o Writers Guild of America West
7000 West Third Street
Los Angeles CA 90048  

Tropic Thunder

Stigma is not limited to mental illness. It’s also imposed on people with intellectual disabilities and other conditions.

Tropic Thunder is a satire about Hollywood and the making of a movie about the Vietnam War. But the satire is excessive, frequently using the word “retard” and making people with intellectual disabilities the butt of a joke that is central to the plot.

The ARC of the United States   has condemned the movie for its “hate speech” and offensive caricatures and called for a national boycott. As a general rule, NAMI does not use boycotts as a tactic— they usually are counterproductive. (In fact, Tropic Thunder has set a record at the box office). However, please send a message to the movie studio   and actor Ben Stiller—who should know better—asking them to join the fight against stigma.

Ms. Stacey Snider
Co-Chairman & CEO
Dreamworks Studios
1000 Flower Street
Glendale, CA 91201  

Mr. Ben Stiller
Red Hour Films
629 North La Brea Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Out of the Inbox

Because of the large number of StigmaBuster emails received each month, not every one can be answered individually, however, we appreciate every message and do evaluate every stigma report, prioritizing them for action. We also appreciate receiving copies of responses. They are important in helping to coordinate strategy and pursue genuine dialogue. You are our eyes and ears! Your help makes a difference! Send reports of stigma to Stella March:

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