NAMI STIGMABUSTERS ALERT -- August 2003
NAMI StigmaBusters change public attitudes by protesting media that perpetuate ignorance, prejudice or discrimination surrounding mental illnesses, while praising those that communicate accurate, compassionate messages, promoting treatment and recovery.
NAMI applauds the recently released Final Report of President Bush's "New Freedom" Commission on Mental Health, which recommends a "national campaign to reduce the stigma of seeking care."
The U.S. Surgeon General also warned in 1999 that stigma is "the most formidable obstacle to future progress in the arena of mental illness and mental health." Stigma discourages people from getting help when they need it. It dehumanizes individuals. It contributes to a lack of investment in the mental healthcare system, with catastrophic costs and consequences.
NAMI StigmaBusters number almost 12,000 now in the United States and around the world. Let your voice be heard! Support NAMI's Campaign for the Mind of America by taking action on the latest cases. Together, we can make a difference!
Apology | New NAMI Web Site | Go Figure | Mashuga Cookies | Recent Victories
NAMI Communications apologizes for the delay since the last StigmaBuster Alert. The launch of NAMI's new national Web site, the national convention in Minneapolis, and activity surrounding the release of the President's New Freedom Commission report on reforming the mental health system converged in a way that unfortunately resulted in several programs being put temporarily on hold. During the next few months, we intend to experiment with several new formats that we hope will enable us to provide more frequent, timely alerts.
NEW NAMI WEBSITE
If you have not yet browsed the new NAMI National Website, www.nami.org, please make sure to do so. Features on the Web site homepage will change daily. By clicking the "Mental Illness in the News" section you can read the most important news articles from around the world and send them to friends or colleagues. Check out also community bulletin boards. Please submit comments about the Website to firstname.lastname@example.org. We welcome your feedback!
NAMI Colorado has raised recurring objections to "Go Figure," a single panel cartoon by J.C Duffy circulated nationally by the United Features Syndicate. The comic features Dr. Norman Floyd, depicting his life with his "zany" family and "zany" patients. The overall premise may be a prescription for trouble, but the July 18, 2003 cartoon crossed a line in sheer insensitivity. It depicted a patient on a couch, saying "Thank you for seeing me on such short notice, doctor," while Dr. Floyd, sitting next to an open window, replied: "I had a last minute cancellation…have the police cleaned up the nasty mess on the sidewalk yet?" To inspect "Go Figure" cartoons for the past 30 days and other information about the syndicated feature, see:
NAMI Stigmabusters are asked to contact United Feature Syndicate to protest the recurring offensiveness of "Go Figure" in trivializing mental illness and perpetuating stigma.
- Email: email@example.com.
- Write: J.C. Duffy also can be contacted c/o United Feature Syndicate, 200 Madison Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10016
- Call: 212-293-8500 and fax 212-293-8616.
Please also make sure to contact editors of local newspapers that publish the cartoon. Remind them that:
- Mental illness is not a laughing matter. Almost all suicides are the result of mental illness. Suicide is the eight leading cause of death nationally, and the third-leading cause of death for teenagers and young adults. The July 18 cartoon's insensitivity to family survivors was appalling and irresponsible.
- Making mental illnesses the butt of jokes only perpetuates the kind of stigma that both President Bush and the U.S. Surgeon General have called on Americans to eliminate. It represents a failure of editorial judgment and civic responsibility.
You also may want to include an example about how stigma may have affected you or your family.
"Mashuga" is a common enough expression. It basically means crazy in Yiddish-or at least something involving strange, inconsistent behavior. So one NAMI StigmaBuster wasn't really concerned when she initially found a package of "Mashuga" cookies, produced by Torn Ranch in California, on the shelf of a Whole Food Market grocery store. "Shortbread so good it'll make you crazy," the package proclaimed on the front. But the language on the back had fighting words:
Hold this pouch up to your ear and listen carefully. If you hear their little voices crying "Try me! Taste me!" We advise you not to tell anyone about it…You'll grin from ear to eternity, or until they come and take you away. But that's OK. Who knows, you may end up inside our next package.
Don't worry. Be Mashuga. It's natural. After all, a little craziness never hurt anyone.
In this day and age, it's astounding that a company actually believes that it's funny or cute to make light of auditory hallucinations, involuntary commitment and mental illness in marketing a gourmet food product. Torn Ranch also advertises Mashuga Nuts on its Website, www.tornranch.com, but we do not know whether the promotional language on their cans is the same.
Please protest the offensive language to Torn Ranch:
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Write: Mr. Dean Morrow, President, 23B Pimentel Court, Novato, CA 94949.
- Call: 415-506-3000 or fax 415-506-3002.
Ask them to change it.
Please also contact Whole Foods -- which emphasizes community citizenship as one of its "core values" and gives five percent or more of its profits every year to a wide variety of community and non-profit organizations. Ask that the company exercise corporate responsibility and ensure that stores no longer stock offensively packaged Mashuga cookies or nuts--or any other merchandise that promotes stigma.
Ask Whole Foods to join the fight against stigma and discrimination and support programs for education and recovery.
- Email email@example.com
- Send letters to President & CEO John Mackey, Whole Foods Market, 601 North Lamar, Suite 300, Austin, Texas 78703; or phone 512-477-4445.
- StigmaBusters also are encouraged to check grocery store shelves and personally ask managers to remove offensive items.
- Kudos to NAMI NY Metro! Phantom of Broadway, a chain of eleven tourist stores in New York City, has agreed to pull souvenir t-shirts emblazoned with the words "New York Mental Institution." After thinking about it, the company acknowledged that they could see how it was offensive.
- Kudos too to NAMI CA on the opposite coast. The Wave, the San Francisco Bay area's largest entertainment magazine, recently published an outrageously inaccurate and stigmatizing column entitled "Cause: Crazy People." NAMI CA countered with a barrage of phone calls and letters. The editor apologized, pulled the article from the magazine Web site and offered NAMI CA free advertising space.
Thank you for your reports, appreciation and messages of all kinds. Most of all, NAMI appreciates your help in helping us to bust stigma wherever we find it.
Stella March, National Coordinator
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.
P lease forward this email if you know someone who might like to be added to our mailing list and join in speaking out against stigma. New subscribers to NAMIStigmaBusters Alerts may sign up at www.nami.org/subscribe. NAMI StigmaBuster Alerts are electronic newsletters provided free of charge as a public service. Contributions to support our work can be made on-line at www.nami.org/donate or via regular mail. Please make checks payable to NAMI and send to P.O. Box 79972, Baltimore, MD 21279-0972, or donate through the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC #0538).