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NAMI StigmaBusters Alert: June 16, 2004


Boy's Life Runs Nintendo Advertisement Stigmatizing Mental Illness

One of the worst stigmatizing and outrageous advertisements appeared in the May 2004 issue of Boys’ Life. It was reported by several StigmaBusters, including a mother whose son receives the magazine because he is a registered Cub Scout.

The Nintendo full-page advertisement features a scene in a community room of a mental institution, showing a patient with a horrified facial expression, wrapped in a straitjacket. The other patients look depressed. Two uniformed guards, each with a superimposed grotesque cartoon head and facial expressions, are standing watch, with the headline asking, "Ever had the feeling you’re going bonkers?"

It is outrageous that Boys’ Life would run this Nintendo ad about individuals in a mental hospital being treated in this demeaning and dehumanizing manner. Did they think it was humorous? Would they run a similar ad depicting a burn unit or amputees?


J. Warren Young, Publisher
J.D. Owen, Editor-in-Chief
Craig J. Vander Ploeg, Director of Advertising

Boys’ Life
1325 West Walnut Hill Lane,
P.O. Box 152079,
Irving, TX 75015
Fax: 972-580-2366

Nintendo of America
Attn: Merchandising
P.O. Box 957
Redmond, WA 98073
Fax: 425-882-3585

E-mail comments to: .


  • What a way to have started "May is Mental Health Month" 2004 with an ad that runs counter to the declaration by President Bush when he launched his New Freedom Commission on Mental Health (New Mexico, April 2002), stating: "Stigma leads to isolation, and discourages people from seeking the treatment they need. Political leaders, health care professionals, and all Americans must understand and send this message: Mental disability is not a scandal; it is an illness. And like physical illness, it is treatable, especially when the treatment comes early."
  • Straitjackets represent a cruel, painful stereotype and trauma that perpetuates stigma and discourages people from getting help when they need it.

  • The full-page ad indicated insensitivity and ignorance by the Nintendo creative staff and showed your lack of oversight of the targeted advertisements you publish in Boys’ Life that impact your young audience.
  • Fearing taunts from peers calling them "bonkers," "weirdo," or "psycho," many teenagers with symptoms of a mental illness refuse to go to a psychiatrist for treatment and ultimately commit suicide. In 2000, suicide was the third leading cause of death among young people aged 15 to 24 years of age (CDC Wonder).
  • We hope Boys’ Life will publish accurate articles about mental illnesses for their young readers to understand that such illnesses are no-blame, no-shame disorders, like all other physical ailments such as cancer, diabetes, pneumonia, and allergies—all requiring medical treatment. Visit the Child & Adolescent Action Center on the NAMI Web site for complete information.


From a StigmaBusters Participant:

"Yesterday I had the opportunity to observe a classroom teacher demonstrate boldly, confidently and matter-of-factly how to fight the stigma of mental illness in the classroom. The teacher began the class by saying quite unabashedly that he had ADD; he briefly explained how ADD influenced his classroom behavior and he told the students (eighth graders in a math class) that he would understand if they wanted to read a book, listen to music, etc. in his classroom as long as they were also focusing on today’s lesson. He addressed ADD in his classroom much as he did his math lesson - with acceptance, enthusiasm, knowledge, and a keen desire to engage and work with the students. He clearly conveyed the notation that ADD is as acceptable in his classroom as rulers and compasses - how refreshing!"


We provide e-mail addresses for contacts when they are available. Usually, we can get a fax number. However, the company representatives claim that every mailed letter is delivered and read.

Please note: when e-mail addresses are used, the volume may result in a shutdown of the overloaded inbox.

NAMI policy supports "People First" language: persons or individuals with a mental illness, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, severe depression, etc. No person should be called a "schizophrenic" or a "bipolar," just as no one is called a "cancer," an "Alzheimer’s," or a "Parkinson’s." All deserve the same respect; all struggle daily with a devastating disorder.

Based on the volume of mail we receive, we cannot answer every message. However, we do appreciate, consider, and use your input. Your alert eyes and ears are important for our joint efforts to bust stigma.

Stella March, National Coordinator
NAMI StigmaBusters

To join StigmaBusters, please visit

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