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NAMI StigmaBuster Alert: October 1, 2004



NAMI Blasts CBS & Dr. Phil for Television Malpractice

NAMI has charged CBS TV with gross irresponsibility for its September 22 broadcast of the "Dr. Phil Primetime Special: Family First," in which the so-called pop psychologist not only "blamed parents first," but may have endangered the lives of children with severe mental illnesses.

"Not only did the show represent a breach of professional ethics, but also, in the opinion of many, malpractice," declared NAMI executive director Michael J. Fitzpatrick, in a letter to CBS Chairman & CEO Leslie Moonves, co-signed by Suzanne Vogel-Scibilia, MD, a child psychiatrist who chairs the Child & Adolescent Policy Subcommittee of NAMI's national board.

The show was especially troubling because the child's behavior may have suggested symptoms of bipolar disorder, requiring treatment vastly different from a father being admonished to spend more time with his son to 'go fishing.'

"Blaming the family undermines all recent understanding of the biological basis of brain disorders and is not only insensitive, but also hinders a family or individual from seeking comprehensive treatment," NAMI warned.

StigmaBusters are asked to contact CBS to protest "pop" diagnoses and to ask for a network-wide review of its standards and practices concerning mental illness and related issues. Speak from the heart!

Mr. Leslie Moonves
Chairman & CEO
CBS Television
1515 Broadway
New York, NY 10036

Click here to read NAMI's letter to CBS Chairman & CEO Leslie Moonves, which contains points you might want to reiterate in your correspondence with CBS. -- "feedback" link at the bottom of the page

Apprentice What?

In the real world, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a person with a mental illness receives some protection in the workplace for reasonable accommodations. But that wasn't the case on September 22 on NBC's "The Apprentice." One of the teams competing for Donald Trump's approval turned on one of its members, Stacie, who was ultimately fired -- referring to her as "psychotic" and a "borderline schizophrenic."

Even worse, Stacie in her departure from the show made statements that only perpetuated cruel, inaccurate stereotypes. "I am not crazy," she declared. "Crazy people kill people. Crazy people blow up buildings." In later radio interviews, she declared: "I don’t have the luxury of being crazy."

One is tempted to say "A pox on both houses" and ignore the exchange, except for the destructive nature of the messages broadcast. Trump himself did not raise mental illness as an issue, but his help in offsetting the damage would be appropriate -- and appreciated.

Please contact NBC and the show's producers. Don't be angry in tone, but do share politely a personal story about the importance of work for recovery.

Ask that NBC's insert before, during or after an upcoming episode of "The Apprentice," a public service announcement (PSA) with Donald Trump about how employees should seek help for the onset of mental illnesses in the workplace -- and that employers should protect investment in the productivity of employees by supporting treatment and recovery.


Stella March, National Coordinator
NAMI StigmaBusters

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