Press Releases

NAMI Protests Nestle's Promotion Of Mental Illness Stigma

Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter Also Objects; Nestle's Candy Contrasts With White House Anti-Stigma Campaign

Aug 19 1999

Arlington, VA - Nestle USA believes the names of three of its Tangy Taffy flavors are "rooted in a silly, playful humor" that "amuses children and gives personality to our cartoon characters." The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), on other hand, considers the names to have "long-standing stereotypical associations with person suffering from mental illnesses" which promote stigma in society.

Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter agrees with NAMI, but so far the giant candy maker doesn't seem to care.

NAMI's Campaign to End Discrimination therefore has launched a second phase in its efforts to persuade Nestle of the error of its ways.

In a letter to Joseph Weller, CEO and chairman of the board of the California-based company, released today, NAMI Executive Director Laurie Flynn wrote that the organization is "outraged and offended" by Nestle's continued use of the product names "Psycho Sam," "Looney Jerry," and "Weird Wally" for its Tangy Taffy bars. "We join former First Lady Rosalyn Carter in expressing our profound objection to such names and images in the promotion of candy sales."

Since 1998, NAMI has engaged in "quiet diplomacy" with the company, but this time it is going public in its efforts, calling on its network of Stigmabusters and others to join in protests against the candy names. "We assure you that mental illnesses are not silly, playful, or humorous; in no way can these devastating disorders be related to fun," Flynn declared. "We know this because we face these illnesses every day."

Flynn also cited President Clinton's radio address before the recent White House Conference on Mental Health, which spoke to the "tremendous harm caused by the stigma surrounding mental illness, particularly in relation to children" and announced a national public education campaign to combat it.

"Stigma leads to children committing suicide rather than revealing their inner struggles; to adults failing to seek treatment that could salvage their lives, careers and family relations; and to tragedies like the Columbine High School massacre," Flynn advised Weller. "Nestle cannot make the injury disappear by ignoring or dismissing our concerns, as you have thus far."

"We are sure you have acted out of ignorance, not malice, and that it was not your intent to cause harm or to perpetuate discrimination," Flynn said. "But you have and will, unless and until you remove these products from the shelves or repackage them more appropriately."