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Dr. Phil and Brian Williams: You Can Do Better; Listen to President Obama about Ending Stigma

ARLINGTON, Va., Aug. 2, 2013 -- Michael J. Fitzpatrick, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) today released the following statement:

"It has been a bad two weeks for Americans with concerns about the stigma that surrounds mental illness. For all the progress that has been made in recent years, Dr. Phil of the CBS Distribution Network and Brian Williams of the NBC Nightly News, through televised comments, perpetuated cruel and inaccurate stereotypes about people living with mental illness.

Dr. Phil said that people who are insane 'suck on rocks and bark at the moon.' Mr. Williams called Ariel Castro, the Cleveland kidnapper and rapist, 'arguably the face of mental illness,' violating journalism guidelines against speculative diagnoses and ignoring the fact that the vast majority of people living with mental illness are not violent.

NAMI shares the outrage of many people over these remarks. More importantly, we are surprised and disappointed over their source. Both Dr. Phil and Mr. Williams have been sensitive to some mental health concerns in the past.  We expect better of them and they should know better. We hope to pursue dialogues with them to renew their concern.

It is especially ironic that the statements have come just one month after President Obama's White House Conference on Mental Health launched the current National Dialogue on mental illness. The U.S. Surgeon long ago reported that stigma is a major barrier to people seeking help when they need it—and impedes recovery when it is internalized. As the President noted, our country must remove the 'embarrassment' associated with mental illness.

'We've got to get rid of that stigma,' the President declared.

NAMI calls on both Dr. Phil, Mr. Williams and their television networks to join in that effort and participate constructively in the National Dialogue."

About NAMI

NAMI is the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. NAMI advocates for access to services, treatment, supports and research and is steadfast in its commitment to raising awareness and building a community of hope.

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