STIGMABUSTERS SPECIAL ALERT -- December 3, 2003
AOL/Netscape Spread Stigma Through "Fun & Games"
On Wednesday, December 3, 2003, Netscape--owned by AOL.COM, the world's leader in Internet services--prominently featured in the "Fun & Games" section of its Homepage an "Insanity Calculator" test to determine "How crazy are you?"
The feature included questions such as:
- Have you ever heard voices in your head?
- If so, do you ever talk back to them?
- Do you enjoy playing with guns or explosives?
- Do you have an unreasonable fear of aliens?
- Would you be surprised to learn that TV characters are not real?
- Have you ever played a record backwards looking for hidden messages?
- If so, hae you every found any?
- When you are bored, do you light matches just to watch them burn?
- When bored do you set fire to homes just to watch them burn?
- Do you name your possessions (cars, blenders, marital aids)?
- Do you have multiple personalities that act independently
- If so, do some of your personalities dislike each other?
- Do you find that some of your friends are invisible to everyone?
- Do you ever talk in silly voices while alone?
- Have you ever tried to fly?
- Are you lying to conceal your true mental state?
A 94% score represented "the percentage of your brain that's insane."
Netscape crossed the line between humor and stigma. The questions are an insult to real people: homeless people living on the streets; people who have experienced hallucinations during psychotic episodes; or people who have lost a family member or friend to suicidal delusions that caused them to "try to fly."
It was the moral equivalent of a nuclear attack: on President Bush's New Freedom initiative, (www.mentalhealthcommission.gov), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration's (SAMHSA's) newly launched ADS Center (www.adscenter.org) and NAMI's own Campaign for the Mind of America (www.nami.org/campaign). In a single day, a media giant was able to undermine efforts to fight against stigma--and reinforce those attitudes that dismiss people who live with disabilities or investment in recovery.
NAMI asked for immediate removal of the Insanity Calculator feature--and by the time you receive this alert, it WILL be gone. But the damage has been done. We need your help in contacting AOL.COM to make sure they address some hard questions--and to remedy the offense committed under their corporate structure. Please contact AOL.COM Chairman/CEO John Miller and his executive office ASAP to raise the following points:
- Why have AOL.COM and Netscape. As corporate citizens, ignored President Bush's and the U.S. Surgeon General's public appeals to end the stigma associated with mental illnesses--and the ongoing public health crisis that needs to be seriously addressed.
- How could such an offensive "Fun & Game" ever make it through Netscape's editorial process? Do they realize that it may help create liability under the Americans with Disabilities Act? It is strong evidence that company-wide, AOL.COM and Netscape need to educate employees about mental illnesses in general--and institute stronger antistigma, antidiscrimination policies.
- AOL.COM needs to apologize and make specific amends for the public impact of the feature. Ask them to publicly support current antistigma campaigns, invest in public education, and donate support to programs for recovery.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (executive office help requests)
Telephone: 703-265-7559 (direct voicemail)
22000 AOL Way
Dulles, Virginia 20166
Thank you for your support!
With more than 220,000 members and 1200 state and local affiliates, NAMI is the nation's largest grassroots organization dedicated to improving the lives of people with severe mental illnesses.
Funding sources for NAMI programs include hundreds of state and local governments and foundations; tens of thousands of individual donors; and a growing number of corporations. NAMI's greatest asset, however, is its volunteers, who donate an estimated $135 million worth of their time each year to education, support and advocacy. NAMI does not endorse any specific medication or treatment.
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