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Fight the Stigma
What can be done?
Are you angry about outdated, outrageous, offensive portrayals or language about persons with mental illness? How do you feel about Tom Cruise and Scientology? Webster defines stigma has having a mark of infamy or disgrace. You do not have to look beyond Virginia to find outrageous comments and treatment concerning the mentally ill. In 2001, local law enforcement in Northumberland County of Eastern Virginia, sought to incarcerate a young honor student for 35 years for robbing a bank that was located across the street from the sheriff's office. He was unarmed and had been diagnosed beforehand with a severe case of paranoid schizophrenia.
A Virginia state senator, who considers himself a conservative Christian, recently told several conservative groups that psychological disorders are caused by spiritual demons, which possess the victims because they have committed sins.
There are several things you can do.
- When you encounter stigma in your community, write the editor of the local paper to express your feelings. If a newspaper writer portrays mental illness accurately and/or advocates for the mentally ill, write to them and tell them that you appreciate their efforts. On the other hand, if a writer has done an injustice to the mentally ill, let them know that too. The following link lists contact information for many of the newspapers in Virginia. http://newslink.org/vanews.html
- 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.
- Become a StigmaBuster, this is the national organization formed by NAMI to fight stigma throughout the country.
- Contact our office to request a guest speaker, to address local civic, religious, and charitable organizations. These speakers give very powerful testimonies concerning mental illness and its impact, and are very effective in dispersing some of the myths that surround mental illness.
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 Stella March, National Coordinator.
"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