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StigmaBusting Network and Alerts


NAMI Campaign to End Discrimination
November 2000.

Contact Information:

Ms. Stella March

NAMI StigmaBusters, with its dedicated advocates across the country, are successfully fighting the pervasive and damaging stigma that exists toward persons with mental illness.

NAMI StigmaBusters now number more than 5,000. Numbers do count, so let your voice be heard.

StigmaBusters Alerts Contents

1. Politically Incorrect: October 25, 2000

2. Titus: October 17, 2000

3. Static Shock: New Warner Bros. Animated Series

4. Jay Leno: October 2, 2000

5. TV Commendations

6. Politically Incorrect Transcript

1. Bill Maher: Politically Incorrect (we received many calls and emails from NAMI StigmaBusters about this one)

Situation: On Thursday, October 26, Politically Incorrect’s Bill Maher chose to target NAMI’s I Vote. I Count 2000 Voter Education and Registration Campaign, an initiative designed to put mental illness issues on the radar screens of every major political candidate. During the program, Maher said, “I’m not making this up...the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill are having a "get out the vote" campaign” adding that “some states allow the retarded to vote. Others allow the insane, but not the retarded -- 35 states draw the line -- you can't vote if you're insane, incompetent, incapacitated, an idiot…”

Panelist Monica Crowley (FOX TV political commentator) did provide some balance by pointing out that since mental illnesses cover a broad category including schizophrenia and clinical depression, which can be stabilized with medication, there is no reason not to allow them to vote. ABC Sports Reporter Bill Weir pointed out that taking away people’s constitutional rights is” a slippery slope”.

Maher also accurately reported that one in five people in their lifetime will suffer a mental illness according to the National Institute of Mental Health. He wound up by allowing that their voting doesn’t make a difference when you hear the moronic reasons people are giving for their choice of candidate.

However, the use of stereotypical language and implying that individuals with a mental illness are incompetent to vote was stigmatization at its worst. Make up your own mind by reading the transcript included at the end of this alert.

Message Points:

- We understand that Bill Maher’ s program is designed to create controversy and ratings by targeting issues of the day with irreverence and disrespect. However, NAMI members and friends need to let Maher know that the pervasive discrimination and stigma that persons with mental illness face daily is often more painful than the disorder itself.

- Individuals with mental illness do not deserve to be called “schizos and psychos”, denigrating language that reinforces the pervasive stigma that surrounds mental illness.

- Individuals with mental illness are not retarded. Would Mike Wallace, William Styron or Tipper Gore be considered retarded? John Nash, the brilliant mathematician who was awarded the Nobel Prize for his mathematics research, has schizophrenia. Martha Manning, PhD, and Kay Redfield Jamison, PhD, both psychologists who have been hospitalized for mental illness, are accomplished authors. Many artists, musicians, scholars, and individuals representing all professions and ethnic backgrounds around the world have had a serious mental illness.


Please send letters voicing your concerns to:
Bill Maher, Executive Producer and Host
Politically Incorrect
7800 Beverly Blvd. Suite 1
Los Angeles, CA 90036
FAX: (323) 575-2685


Go online to the Politically Incorrect Message Board at; click on “ABC Shows”; click on “Politically Incorrect”; click on “Transcripts” and click on Thursday 10/26”. You will be able to click on the complete transcript of the show for Thursday, October 26 and also send a message through the message board.

2.TITUS: October 17, 2000

Situation: The Fox Television series, Titus, aired an episode on Tuesday, October 17 that again insulted his mother’s character with derogatory language targeting her mental illness, which is bipolar disorder.

Message Points:

- We understand that Christopher Titus is basing this series on his own family, including his alcoholic father and mother who has bipolar disorder. The mother continues to be treated disrespectfully and with derogatory language.

- One in five Americans are personally affected by some form of mental illness, many certainly are among your audience. Television producers and writers, even for comedy shows, have a responsibility to represent mental illness in such a way that does not demean and ridicule these individuals.

- The Surgeon General’s landmark Report on Mental Health found that stigma continues to be the single most significant barrier to individuals seeking help for mental illness. Further, it reported that stigma must be reduced by “dispelling myths about mental illness and by providing accurate knowledge to ensure more informed consumers.” In stark contrast, “Titus” perpetuates myths with its destructive and demeaning portrayal of mental illness.

- Persons with mental illness should receive the same respect and dignity accorded to persons with other physical disorders. Would derogatory language ever be used to describe characters with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, diabetes, or even persons of different ethnic or racial groups?

- We request that you not repeat this episode. We also ask that future episodes featuring the mother character also integrate information about how mental illnesses are biologically based brain disorders; that effective treatments are now available for these disorders; and that recovery and reclaiming full productive lives is now possible.

Action: Please continue to monitor this series, which has been contracted for more episodes. We also have learned that Titus has hired an actress to portray the mother character. Meanwhile, letters to express your concerns may be sent to the following:

Gail Berman, President, Entertainment Group, Fox
Broadcasting Company, 10302 West Pico
Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90035

Brian Hargrove, Executive Producer, Christopher
Titus, Titus, Fox Television,
P.O. Box 900,
Beverly Hills, CA 90213-0900


3. STATIC SHOCK: New Warner Brothers Cartoon Series, Saturdays, 10 a.m.

Situation: A recent episode of “Static Shock” portrayed a stereotypical character: a heavy- handed psychiatric nurse with a detained villain character, Hot Streak (a trouble- making, high school bully who had been arrested). The scene had him in a padded cell refusing to take medication. The nurse was shown pulling him by the hair until he raised his lowered head, then forcibly dumping the medicine into his mouth. After the nurse left the padded room, the character spit out the medicine he had hidden in his cheek. We informed the Vice President of Warner Brothers TV Animation about the fear of psychiatric treatment this instills in their young audience and the escalating rate of suicide among adolescents with untreated depression.

We received the following response:

“There is no reference to or implication of mental illness in this scene (or any other), but we can understand how, taken out of context, this particular scene could potentially be misconstrued.. . . .Nonetheless, please know that feedback like yours is most valuable to us in that Warner Bros. Television Animation strives to produce entertainment of the highest quality, and our intent is never to do so at the expense of any racial, ethnic, religious, national, socio-economic, physically or mentally challenged groups. Comments like your help narrow the gap between that which we intend and that which is being percieved. As such, we will be passing along your comments to all those involved with the production for consideration as we move forward.”

We appreciate the response and consideration of our concerns and comments by this influential producer of many cartoon series popular with children.


We heard from many StigmaBusters that Jay Leno, on his Monday, October 2, show, featured an insensitive skit dealing with medications for clinical depression to be replaced with “tequila.” I contacted his office by phone and I was informed he had meant no offense with this skit. I responded that widespread self medication with alcohol results in a double diagnosis of mental illness and alcohol abuse, which requires special long-term treatment, that any mental illness including clinical depression requires medical prescriptions, and that mental illness is not a laughing matter.

We hope Jay Leno watchers will continue to monitor his program and let us know whether he again uses mental illness as the butt of his humor.


FAMILY LAW: CBS 10/23/00 We sent a congratulatory letter to the CBS Executive Producer of “Family Law” commending the episode of October 23, 2000 which portrayed a homeless man with mental illness who was dealt with unfairly by the court. For his offense of urinating in public, he was jailed, put in restraints and seclusion and shot full of drugs. His brother, one of the attorneys, appealed his case and eventually won his freedom.

This episode informed the public that the courts require more education about these disorders as well as compassion to deal fairly and justly with individuals with mental illness.

LAW & ORDER: NBC 10/25/00 We commended the producer for this episode involving a character with mental illness who after being released from prison, attacks a woman at the train station to get her to see the voices in his head. She dies. He is convicted of murder. The woman’s husband is outraged that this person was let out of jail without any medications. The District Attorneys go after the HMO responsible for the jail care. They DAs won. The HMO was found guilty of depraved indifference resulting in murder. (If only such justice was doled out in real life circumstances!)


The new NBC series “DEADLINE” has been cancelled. We received many reports about the stereotypical character on the October 9 episode. Another new series that may be cancelled is the ABC series “The Trouble with Normal” The reason for these cancellations: poor ratings.

Look for new shows in November with story content to attract high ratings. We do appreciate your reports about offensive national media although, due to the growing volume, we are not able to answer every message personally. We also appreciate seeing responses generated by your stigma-busting efforts.

Politically Incorrect Transcript (October 26, 2000)

Guests on this program were: Monica Crowley, Fox News political commentator Dean Cain, TV's Superman Shawn Mullins, singer/songwriter Bill Weir, ABC “Monday Night Live" sports anchor

Bill: Thank you very much.

[ Cheers and applause ]...picked up from previous discussion...

So that's it. But, you know, the know-it-all or the idiot, and they're all pandering to get different groups voting. Here's a group I hadn't heard about until yesterday -- the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. Folks, I couldn't make this up.

[ Laughter ]

They are having a "get out the vote" campaign.

[ Laughter ]

Mike Fitzpatrick, the regional director, said, "Our purpose is to establish a mental illness voting bloc."

[ Laughter ]

I am not making this up. Just to give you some facts, some states allow the retarded to vote. Others allow the insane, but not the retarded. 35 states draw the line -- you can't vote if you're insane, incompetent, incapacitated, an idiot or a lunatic. They --

[ Laughter ]

But one of the spokesmen said the mentally ill should have the same right to make a mistake as anybody else.

[ Laughter ]


Bill Weir: The voices in my head tell me this is okay.

[ Laughter ]

And here's why.

Monica: So I guess you'll be voting in two weeks.

Bill Weir: Here's why, because when you start taking away people's Constitutional rights, for any reason, it's a slippery slope. I mean, I've got family members who aren't, you know, clinically retarded, but we don't let 'em play with the remote control. You know what I mean?

[ Laughter ]

And they get to vote. So, like you say, there's so many different -- and if the kid from "Deliverance" can put down the banjo and find a polling place --

[ Laughter ]

Monica: Wait a minute, wait a minute.

Bill Weir: -- more power for them.

Monica: Mental illness is a pretty broad category. I mean, clinical depression is not schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is not homicidal mania. Obviously there are varying degrees here. And if somebody's incarcerated for being criminally insane, obviously they should not have the right to vote. But if somebody is, say, institutionalized for mental illness and the doctor can show the state that medication or therapy has stabilized the patient, the patient knows what's going on, he's aware of his reality --

Shawn: I wonder how you can draw the line, though.

[Talking over one other]

Monica: -- He's not delusional, then he should be allowed to vote.

Bill: But, we're talking about the mentally ill. You can -- all your flowery words, Doc.


These are schizos and psychos. And, I mean, my inclination is to be with you on this and say, "You know what? How can we let the mentally ill vote?" But then again, when I read about the moronic reasons people are voting for one of these two guys, I don't think it makes a difference.


I was saying to Joe Lockhart the other day --


And I'm not for either one of them -- these clowns. But people think that Gore is more competent, more caring, and more with them on the issues. They prefer Bush, 'cause they'd rather have a beer with him. Now, is that any better than a total retard in the booth?



Dean: Probably not, but I gotta say, you know, if someone doesn't know the difference between right and wrong, if they literally can get off, like a murderer, by reason of insanity, not guilty by reason of insanity, I don't wanna 'em to vote.

Shawn: I wonder where we're gonna draw the line. Where do you say, "Okay, this person is almost crazy enough"? So you've gotta draw the line somewhere. I think there should be someone --

Bill: Do you know that they say one in five of us in America, in a given year, suffers from mental illness? That's what the National Institutes of Mental Health say, one in five.

Bill Weir: So all those swing retard states are really what's gonna decide --


Bill: We gotta take a commercial. We'll be right back.

[ Cheers and applause ]

With your enthusiastic support, NAMI StigmaBusters making a real difference!

Stella March, Coordinator
NAMI StigmaBusters Email Alert

New! Receive stigma alerts via e-mail! Click here to learn how you can join NAMI's stigma alert list to receive regular stigma alerts.

We look forward to hearing from you!

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