National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Become a StigmaBuster: How It Works

Are you angry about outdated, outrageous, offensive portrayals or language about persons with mental illness? Become a StigmaBuster and tell the people creating or promoting these ads, characters, editorials and other stereotypes how you feel about their hurtful, demeaning and dehumanizing creations and pronouncements.

Here's how it works:

  • Local persons/affiliates deal directly with their own local radio-TV, newspapers and any other business using offensive language or portrayals.
  • State Organizations deal with situations in their communities and statewide stigma issues in the media.
  • NAMI StigmaBusters E-mail Alerts will inform you about all situations in national media, films, TV, magazines, ads, and press like The Washington Post, NY Times. LA Times, etc. The Alerts will provide details about the offensive portrayals and/or language with the name and e-mail or mailing address of the person responsible for the situation. This will unleash a flood of messages to educate the offending parties. We will inform you about any responses received - positive or negative.
  • StigmaBusters also sends letters of appreciation and commendation to producers of TV or motion picture films for their accurate portrayal of a character with a mental illness.
  • To report a situation for a NAMI StigmaBusters E-mail Alert, please use the following guidlines:

Guidelines for all Reports:

Please provide specific details: when and where you read, saw, or heard the stigma situation, including the name of the newspaper/magazine and publication date; the product and/or advertiser; the TV network or show it ran on, etc. We need these details to check it out.

When in doubt, do not hesitate to report the situation for our evaluation.

We receive many requests to protest local situations. However, NAMI StigmaBusters Alerts focus on high profile situations on national media, in print and on film.

We recommend the following approaches that have been successful in communities across the country dealing with local stigma:

* Contact immediately and directly the newspaper editor, radio/ TV station manager, and advertisers. They want to keep their local customers.

* Provide specific information about the offensive language and/or portrayal, including where and when sighted.

* Contact your state organization and local NAMI affiliate to join in reaching the officials responsible for reinforcing the stigma and discrimination against persons with mental illness.

Stigma on the Internet

The Internet does not have any official oversight, rules or regulations. We choose to deal only with responsible organizations or corporations on the Internet who provide contacts for public input. It may be a customer service person who takes the complaint or it may be made on their Web site "contact us" e-mail. They do not respond directly, but they do consider the complaint when creating future product names, promotional ads, etc.

Use of Language

* We do not protest usage of single words like "crazy" "psycho" "wacko" or "loony" unless they refer directly to individuals struggling with mental illnesses or to the illness itself.

* "Schizophrenic" to describe a split decision made by Congress or any organization has become part of our cultural language. However, its misuse is being heard and corrected by many in the public arena.

* We protest calling a person a "schizophrenic": NAMI policy calls for PEOPLE FIRST: people, persons, individuals with a mental illness, schizophrenia, bipolar, clinical depression, OCD, panic disorder.

Report any incidence of stigma meeting the above guidelines to

"Film and television shows depicting mental illness can help the public learn it is treatable and that suicide is preventable. . . they have a greater ability to disseminate information and attitudes than we (health workers) do alone." -- U.S. Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher