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NAMI StigmaBuster Alert: January 28, 2006


Crumbs: Compassion?

For two weeks running, ABC-TV's Crumbs (Thursdays, 9:30 PM ET) has been watched by approximately 12 million people. That's relatively strong -- higher than or close to the ratings achieved by 60 Minutes, Cold Case, Law and Order, ER, and The West Wing.

Some StigmaBusters felt that the show exhibited a softer tone last week.This week, the shift was more noticeable, particularly in terms of stigmatizing language, which may have been redubbed. In fact, the January 26 episode, offered a glimpse of compassion.

Recently released from a psychiatric hospital Mrs. Crumb (Jane Curtin), bored with her divorce support group, begins to socialize with a recovery group for crystal methamphetamine addicts. This situation becomes the vehicle for some disparaging jokes, however, when one of her sons criticizes her choice in new friends, Mrs. Crumb declares: "Let me tell you something about these people. They've lost their homes, their families, their savings, and they've hit rock bottom. At least they look up to me."

The focus then turns to the stigma that Mrs. Crumb has felt since being released from the hospital -- knowing that people are talking about her, and not wanting to face old friends. Toward the end of the episode, however, she visits two old friends -- a day late for their anniversary party --who welcome and hug her. Jokes aside, it was a relatively accurate and compassionate depiction of a stage of recovery.

Sometimes, television shows evolve. Let's continue to monitor Crumbs closely. We'll wait to see how or if the show progresses. In the meantime, StigmaBusters have accomplished a lot:

  • Contacts with ABC-TV may be the reason for the softened language. In the latest episode, "nervous breakdown" has been substituted for "mentally ill," and "the hospital" for "mental hospital." Previously, the soundtrack was redubbed to change the name of the hospital to "Cedar Hill," after a real hospital with the original name complained.

  • We got the attention of several major companies that ran commercial ads during the show. Some pulled out entirely (which certainly got ABC-TV's attention). Others are reviewing their advertising standards. In some cases, we have had good dialogues, educating them about mental illness.

By the third episode, only three companies had advertised for consecutive weeks during the show. These are our current targets, but with a slightly different message:

  • For consecutive weeks, your company has run commercials during ABC-TV's broadcast of Crumbs (9:30 PM ET), a show that in its first episodes stereotyped, trivialized, and made fun of mental illness.
  • Change your advertising policy. Don't support stigma and discrimination on any television show. Don't risk lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • Help fix the damage you caused. Donate paid primetime airtime for public service announcements (PSAs) to the U.S. Ad Council and the federal government's National Anti-Stigma Campaign. Sponsor National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) walkathons. Educate your employees.

Citigroup (Citi Simplicity credit card)
399 Park Avenue
New York, New York 10043
Phone:  1-800/285-3000
Attention: Anne MacDonald

Dr. H. Fisk Johnson (Ziploc double-zipper bag; Glade plug-ins; Oust air freshener)
Chairman & CEO
S. C. Johnson & Son, Inc.
1525 Howe Street
Racine WI 53403-5011

Phone: 1-800/494-4855
Email: Click here to reach online form 

Toshiaki Taguchi, President & CEO, Toyota Motor North America
Toyota Motor Sales, USA Inc.

19001 South Western Avenue
Dept. WC11
Torrance CA 90501
Phone: 1-800/331-4331
Fax: 310/468-7814
Email: Click here to reach online form

Your efforts have made a difference! Thank you for your support!

Stella March, National Coordinator
NAMI StigmaBusters

To receive StigmaBuster Alerts directly in your inbox, visit, sign in, and check the box next to StigmaBusters.

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