NAMI StigmaBusters Alert: July 8, 2004
June 2004 MTV Movie Awards Show Presents Stigmatizing Images
Many NAMI families and professionals sent messages expressing shock and dismay concerning the hurtful, offensive mental illness theme of the June 2004 MTV Movie Awards Show.
The show’s opening scenes, described in the words of a parent, featured fast-moving animated clips of patients in a psychiatric hospital, including disturbing portrayals of patients, with one "chained to a wall, another receiving electroshock therapy, another an evil-looking little girl standing in the center of a room with blood smeared on the walls, another fighting dogs that apparently were delusions, and people sitting in a "group room" laughing maniacally. These clips were clearly stereotypes of people with mental illnesses, showcasing them as violent and "crazy."
We sent a letter to the president of MTV protesting these insensitive portrayals. We have not received a response, delaying this alert to allow him time to answer.
Mr. Van Toffler
New York, NY 10036
- The psychiatric hospital is shown as a scary place, reinforcing centuries-old stereotypes that influence young people with symptoms of a mental illness to refuse to seek treatment. They fear peers calling them "wacko," "nuts," or "psycho." Instead, they contribute to the escalating suicides by adolescents with untreated severe depression, currently the third-highest rate in the United States. We do not believe MTV wants to support more alarming increases in suicides by our young people.
- MTV’s "Real World 3" in 1995 was among the first to deal with HIV. MTV has been credited with campaigns for safe sex and voting, and for reaching and teaching kids lessons about tolerance. Why not do the same for the young audience vulnerable to mental illnesses that happen to one in five individuals during their lifetime?
- Finally, "Stigma is not just a matter of using the wrong word or action. Stigma is about disrespect. It is the use of negative labels to identify a person living with mental illness. Stigma is a barrier. Fear of stigma, and the resulting discrimination, discourages individuals and their families from getting the help they need. An estimated 22 to 23 percent of the U.S. population experience a mental disorder in any given year, but almost half of these individuals do not seek treatment" (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2002; U.S. Surgeon General, 2001).
FROM OUR INBOX
Boys’ Life Responds, Nintendo Does Not
Re: The most demeaning full page ad in the community room of a psychiatric hospital showing a patient in a straitjacket and two guards with gruesome heads and facial expressions superimposed on their bodies.
On the letterhead of the Boy Scouts of America, the publisher of Boys’ Life wrote:
Thank you for your letter sharing your thoughts and comments about the Nintendo ad in BOYS’ LIFE MAGAZINE, MAY 2004 issue to me, Mr. Owen (Editor in Chief), and Craig Vander Ploeg, (Director of Advertising). Please accept this as response from all of us.
We regret that this advertisement has caused you and the audience you represent concern. We apologize, since under no circumstances is it our intention to upset anyone in the BOYS’ LIFE COMMUNITY.
Your comments have been noted and I assure you the situation that you have documented will not recur.
J. Warren Young
FYI: ANSWERING MANY MESSAGES:
NAMI StigmaBusters Alert deals with offensive language and portrayals associated directly with individuals with mental illness only in national media, print and film, which we read, prioritize and research.
However, for stigma in local newspapers, radio, or signs, please contact, along with your local affiliate and state NAMI organization, the editor, manager or owner of the business involved. They do not want to lose their local customers and usually respond quickly by withdrawing the ad. If you need additional assistance, please contact me, Stella March.
REMINDER: Time now to register at the Early Bird rate for the NAMI National 25th Anniversary Celebration in Washington, D.C. We will have a networking meeting with our StigmaBusters participants. We hope to meet you on Thursday, September 9 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Please visit www.nami.org/convention for registration information.
We appreciate your eyes and ears that help us to bust the stigma!
Stella March, National Coordinator
To join StigmaBusters, please visit