Prepared by:
National Stigma Clearinghouse


Please scroll down for July 2001 archives.

December 30, 2001 - News of the Week



Miriam Davis was the chief medical writer for U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher's report on the nation's mental health issued in December of 1999. The project gave Ms. Davis a new understanding of the prejudice that surrounds mental illnesses; her own bias was transformed to empathy in the process. Now Ms. Davis is working on a book about stigma and mental illnesses with Howard H. Goldman, the senior scientific editor of the Surgeon General's report.

Ms. Davis stated in The Washington Post last week (article below) that her chapter on stigma in the Surgeon General's report was inspired in large part by discrimination against John Forbes Nash, Jr., a math genius who in 1994 won a Nobel prize in the field of economics for work done early in his career. Nash's history of mental illness became an issue during his selection and nearly cost him the prize.

In the 1970's when Ms. Davis was a graduate student at Princeton, Mr. Nash had been a forlorn presence on campus, ravaged by the effects of schizophenia. It was not until 1998, while Davis was working on the Surgeon General's report, that she learned the details of Nash's story from his bigraphy by Sylvia Nasar, "A Beautiful Mind." (The Nash biography is the subject of a movie just released, also titled "A Beautiful Mind.")

Below is the Washington Post article by Miriam Davis. It is a fascinating account of discovery, sensitivity, and commitment to change.


When 25 Years Ago the Author Met John Nash, the Nobel-Winning Schizophrenic, She Behaved Badly. She's Beginning to Understand Why.

By Miriam Davis
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, December 18, 2001

His shorts were a bright plaid, glaringly different from the pattern on his shirt. On his feet he wore red sneakers. On the self-consciously earth-toned Princeton campus of 1976, he stood out.

"Who's that?" I asked my friends in the math department about the odd-looking figure who hung around the math area, which faced the biology lab where I'd begun working on my doctorate.

"Oh, that's Nash," came the reply.

"Who's he?" I persevered.

"He's crazy, but he won't hurt you." End of discussion.

That was my introduction to math genius John Nash -- years before he was awarded his Nobel prize in economics, years before his recovery from schizophrenia, years before the release of the film version of his biography, "A Beautiful Mind," which is scheduled to arrive in theaters in January. And years before I began to care about the stigma of mental illness.

I didn't question my friends' dismissiveness. Nash's illness reduced him to insignificance for me, as it did for so many others.

Like them, I grew accustomed to seeing "The Ghost of Fine Hall," as he was known, in and around the math department where he had been a fixture for years -- a department in which he no longer had any formal affiliation but where all knew of his former glory. Outside Princeton, many academics assumed he was dead.

The trouble was that I saw this dead man walking everywhere on campus. He could hardly be missed. Hunch-shouldered, arms hanging, he wandered the grounds wearing a vacant expression and the same mismatched plaids in all weather, regardless of season. He muttered to himself and made no eye contact. His appearance was so unsettling that I never said hello or bothered with a half-smile. I never wondered who he really was beneath the off-putting exterior, why he was there, whether he had a family, what his background was. I simply tried to steer clear.

It took me 20 years to realize that in writing him off as almost subhuman, I'd fallen into the smug ignorance of most Americans. Sixty percent of them, according to one comprehensive national survey, want to distance themselves from people with schizophrenia. As a grad student in the 1970s, I was, as they say, part of the problem.

Surgeon General's Report
I came to Washington in 1982 to become a health policy wonk and later became an independent medical writer. The topic of mental health did not reach my professional radar until 1998, when I was tapped to help draft and edit the first-ever surgeon general's report on mental health.

The project began with a call from the project's senior scientific editor, University of Maryland psychiatry professor Howard H. Goldman. This report, he told me, was a watershed event. Never before had a surgeon general focused on mental health and mental illness. The current surgeon general, David Satcher, saw the document as an opportunity to draw attention to illnesses that were as real and disabling as heart disease and cancer but had rarely been treated as such. Would I be interested?

I hedged, not eager to commit to a topic of marginal interest. Even after I reluctantly agreed, I had no way of knowing how absorbing the assignment would become.

I began by editing chapters from experts. One part, "Outcome of Schizophrenia," explained that popular assumptions about schizophrenia -- including that it follows an inevitable downhill course to total dysfunction -- were based on a century-old description. Newer research that systematically tracked patients over decades found that half to two-thirds of people with schizophrenia improve or recover. Schizophrenia was not a life sentence, especially with treatment, rehabilitation and support from family and friends. In fact, the expert wrote, "some people with schizophrenia can experience a remission of their symptoms and return to a high level of functioning."

That was news to me.

To illustrate the point, the author cited the story of a certain John Nash, the 1994 Nobel prize winner in economics. I re-read this descriptor with astonishment, wondering briefly if this could possibly be the same figure I recalled from graduate school days. I then pushed the question from my mind. But a few weeks later, curious to know more, I bought Sylvia Nasar's 1998 biography of the troubled genius. As I leafed through the book, I came upon a picture of Nash from Princeton -- which had been taken while I had been there in the 1970s. In black and white, there was the indelible image: Nash wearing mismatched plaids, that same hollow stare in his eyes.

His biography transported me back to the Ivy League campus -- and back even further to the history of its illustrious math department. In 1950 Nash earned his doctorate there in a branch of mathematics known as game theory, a system for assessing competing strategies and outcomes in such areas as economics, political science and sociology. It was his work in this field that, more than 40 years later and long after his terrible battle with schizophrenia, would win him the Nobel prize.

In graduate school, I remembered, I had spent nights over wine and beer with math students, watching them crack jokes and scrawl unfathomable equations on napkins. I recalled their awkwardness, their crooked glasses, greasy hair and body odor. Yet the biography made clear that even within the quirky and cloistered world of the math department, Nash was a loner. He was withdrawn and inaccessible even before the onset of his mental illness.

But, as Nash's biography relates, it wasn't until after he left Princeton for his first faculty post at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that he began a precipitous mental slide. In 1959, when he gave a lecture to the American Mathematical Society, Nash rambled incoherently. To listeners, the lecture seemed to certify him, in the most conspicuous way, as a madman.

Nash's wife made the painful decision to have him committed to McLean Hospital outside Boston. Psychiatrists diagnosed paranoid schizophrenia. So began a 30-year nightmare of delusions, hallucinations and disorganized thoughts and speech -- the hallmarks of one of the most feared mental disorders.

Many of the treatments he received have long since been discredited. In 1961 doctors at a Princeton-area hospital subjected him to six weeks of insulin coma therapy -- daily injections that sent his blood sugar plummeting and rendered him comatose, followed by forced feedings of glucose to revive him. Recoiling at what he called being "tortured," Nash would drop even apparently effective medications upon discharge, prompting a new cycle of troubles and treatments.

In 1960, convinced he was a political prisoner, Nash traveled to Europe, determined to hand in his passport at a U.S. embassy. Initially he was talked out of it; later he simply threw the document away.

Prize Fight
I expected little more than a good read from Nash's biography; what I got was a lesson about the shattering impact of schizophrenia. But I didn't stop to think about my own behavior toward Nash until I got to the account of the battle over his nomination for the Nobel prize.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awards the Nobel prizes after secret negotiations by several committees. But what happened to Nash was such an indictment of the participants that some later felt compelled to reveal the story.

When Nash's candidacy was first considered in the late 1980s, the selection committee immediately expressed concern about incurring embarrassment if they awarded the prize to someone with schizophrenia, even though Nash's work in game theory was finished in 1951, several years before the onset of his illness.

The committee dispatched a scout to Princeton with one mission: to determine whether the rumors that Nash was recovering were true. Nash was eccentric, the member reported back, but no longer crazy. His recovery had begun gradually in the 1980s -- no one knows precisely why or how. But the key ingredients, in his biographer's view, were likely the gentle support of his wife and the sheltered Princeton campus. One day, the story goes, Nash suddenly turned to a professor to whom he'd never spoken before and remarked that he'd seen the man's daughter quoted in the newspaper.

The committee proceeded with Nash's application, but not without resistance. One member claimed to be skeptical of the value of Nash's work on game theory, despite the fact that it was already being applied on an international scale in commerce and diplomacy. When the nomination came before the full body for a vote, Nash was awarded the Nobel prize in one of the closest votes in the Academy's history. Debate was so bitter that it delayed the usually punctual news conference to announce the winners.

After reading this, I realized that if members of the Academy -- so educated, so worldly, so refined -- could so nearly let a personal history of mental illness blind them to an individual's accomplishments, then others could, too. Including me. Even if my long-ago reaction to Nash was instinctive, unlike the committee's prolonged consideration, it was no less disturbing, no less a violation of a person's worth.

Shame of Mental Illness
Why had I thought only of avoiding Nash when I passed him years before? Why had I reacted with revulsion, not empathy? Why had I not stood up to those who ridiculed him, who dismissed him as a freak?

These thoughts became enmeshed in my writing of the 1999 surgeon general's report.

Stigma, I wrote, is "the most formidable obstacle to future progress in the arena of mental illness and health. . . . It is manifested by bias, distrust, stereotyping, fear, embarrassment, anger and/or avoidance.

"Stigma leads others to avoid living, socializing or working with, renting to, or employing people with mental disorders, especially severe disorders such as schizophrenia. . . . It reduces patients' access to resources and opportunities (e.g., housing, jobs) and leads to low self-esteem, isolation and hopelessness. It deters the public from seeking, and wanting to pay for, care. In its most overt and egregious form, stigma results in outright discrimination and abuse. More tragically, it deprives people of their dignity and interferes with their full participation in society."

It's right there in print. Little did anyone know I was at that point writing a kind of self-critical autobiography.

But still, no dogmatic report can translate realizations into personal behavior.

As passionate as I've become about the plight of mental illness, I'm no Mother Teresa. I do not now run over and greet wild-eyed strangers I see on the street; they still make make me uneasy. But now I am willing to pay slightly higher taxes or insurance premiums if that's what's needed to get them adequate psychiatric care -- far more humane and effective these days than what Nash experienced. And I know now their humanity is inextricably connected with mine.

As I was writing the section of the surgeon general's report dealing with the consequences of stigma, I felt almost as though I were shaking myself free of a lifelong hangover. Even if my insensitivity toward Nash made no difference to him at the time, it had tacitly endorsed others' disregard of him and condoned a kind of social injustice.

Gradually, my ignorance and apathy about mental illness evolved into empathy. But that transformation did not occur solely by educating myself. It took Nash's story to rouse me. It took recognizing that I was part of the problem. I'm still working on it.

Freelance medical writer Miriam Davis is working with co-author Howard H. Goldman on a book about the stigma of mental illness.

© 2001 The Washington Post Company"

December 23, 2001 - News of the Week



This week is the opening of "A Beautiful Mind," a movie based on Sylvia Nasar's 1998 biography of John Forbes Nash, Jr., a mathematical genius with a formidable intellect and a little-understood illness diagnosed as schizophrenia.

The title alone -- "A Beautiful Mind" -- gives dignity to people diagnosed with schizophenia. Without even seeing the film, people will be exposed to new ways of thinking about a term that is routinely misused by the general public.

For thirty years, Mr. Nash battled for control of his life with the help of his wife, Alicia, who refused to give up. Then, as his illness subsided in 1994, he was awarded a Nobel prize for his brilliant work early in his career.

In Ms. Nasar's book, the Nash family portrait is unsparing, yet warm and empathetic. On nearly every page, scholarly details emerge clearly: for example, an explanation of the schizophrenia syndrome or a look at arcane theorems and theories. The book offers fascinating glimpses of the small world of mathematical giants and how they relate to each other. It ends with a suspenseful tracing of the events that led to Nash's Nobel prize.

So the big question is: Can the movie capture the essence of the book? It's a tall order. But whatever the verdict, the movie has a wonderful stereotype-shattering title, "A Beautiful Mind."

December 16, 2001 - News of the Week


The National Stigma Clearinghouse often gets calls from college students who are working on academic projects about prejudice and mental illnesses. Their Internet searches are apt to turn up as many as 50,000 hit-or-miss entries, none meeting their needs.

For an overview of current anti-discrimination / anti-stigma developments, we recommend a few key websites. These sites offer the researcher many related links.

  • Otto Wahl's Home Page. In addition to Dr. Wahl's informative website, he has written two excellent books that are available in most libraries: Media Madness is packed with information about media images of mental illnesses. Telling Is Risky Business relates psychiatric survivors' reactions to prejudice, how it affects their lives, and how they cope.

  • Surgeon General's Reports. Dr. David Satcher, the U.S. Surgeon General, has issued important reports on mental health: culture, race and ethnicity; suicide prevention; and a landmark report on the nation's mental health with a section on the effects of stigma.

  • National Institute of Mental Health. This encyclopedic website gives statistical information, descriptions of mental illnesses, and much more.

  • CMHS Knowledge Exchange Network. This site is a basic resource on psychiatric conditions. Its emphasis is on people, not labels.

  • National Stigma Clearinghouse. We post over 40 links to related websites. When possible, we answer questions about specific information needed, preferably by E-mail (

    NOTE: Was this information useful? Please let us know what other sites you find useful. E-mail us at
  • December 3, 2001 - News of the Week


    The trauma of terrorism continues to distress victims. According to reports, symptoms that resemble disabling mental illnesses have occurred in a large number of people who normally do not seek mental health help. In New York City alone, 1.5 million people are expected to turn to counseling, requiring 14 million dollars in federal help.

    It has been said that for pain to go away, it must be shared by others. Since September 11, there has been a phenomenal outpouring of shared support for those who were directly affected by the tragedy of that terrible day. In addition to emotional and psychological support, millions of dollars from private well-wishers await distribution to survivors.

    An interesting question: Will compassion for trauma victims awaken a new understanding of the nation's other mental health needs? Will the shocked trauma victims make the connection between themselves and people who struggle with similar symptoms without help of any kind? Will a new awareness replace the prejudice and discrimination that has slowed progress on mental health issues?

    For example, will Congress pass the federal insurance parity bill to end discrimination against employees who have mental illnesses? Here in New York, will the insurance parity bill pass? Will grossly underpaid community mental health workers get the wage parity they deserve? Will the state's fiscal game of shifting mental health "savings" from shutdown hospital beds to the state's general fund be halted? Will people with mental illnesses discharged from jails and hospitals receive follow-up community support, medical care, and decent housing?

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    November 25, 2001 - News of the Week


    We flinch when journalists use psychiatric terms like "schizophrenic," "psychotic," or "psychopathic" to describe political problems . Such terms are useless for clear writing, since the public's understanding of them is foggy at best.

    Anthony Lewis, in his New York Times column of November 24, described the cruelty of Taliban rulers against Afghans as "so harsh that it has to be called psychopathic." Unfortunately, the general public tends to confuse "psychopathic" with "psychotic," which is a very different condition. This damaging confusion (also seen in some dictionaries) has concerned us for many years.

    Years ago, we asked Dr. Otto Wahl to explain the difference between "psychotic" and "psychopathic." Below is a shortened version of his explanation. For Dr. Wahl's complete explanation, click For Otto Wahl's Home Page, click


    (Shortened Version)

    Otto F. Wahl, Ph.D.
    George Mason University

    It is common to find people using the terms "psychotic" and "psychopathic" almost interchangeably, with each frequently followed by the word "killer." Such usage reflects misunderstanding of the meanings of these terms and promotes what may be harmful misconceptions about the relationship of mental illnesses to violence and criminality. What follows is an attempt to clarify these labels.

    PSYCHOTIC, as explained in the diagnostic guidebook used by mental health professionals in this country (the DSM-IV), is a rather loosely used term which refers not to a specific mental illness but to a class of psychiatric disorders in which there is "grossly impaired reality testing" (DSM-IV, p. 770). Individuals experiencing a psychotic episode misidentify and misinterpret situations and events in a major way such that their understanding of external reality is greatly distorted. Hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized thought and speech are manifestations of this kind of impairment. Disorders typically considered "psychotic" include schizophrenia, severe mood disorders such as mania and major depression, and some organic brain disorders.

    PSYCHOPATHIC is not the same as "psychotic." "Psychopathic" is a descriptor taken from a no longer used diagnostic label - psychopathy. One central feature of this disorder (now called Antisocial Personality Disorder) is "a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood" (DSM-IV, p. 645). Often this antisocial behavior includes unlawful behavior and numerous arrests, but may also include things like repeated failure to fulfill marital, parental, or work responsibilities, lying, and substance abuse. Psychopathic individuals usually have adequate reality testing and may even lack any other pathology beyond their antisocial conduct. (It is noteworhy, in fact, that laws in many states explicitly exclude this type of disorder from definitions of legal insanity.) They are also said to be characterized by lack of remorse for their antisocial actions.

    November 18, 2001 - News of the Week

    "The Entertainment Industries Council Suggests Ten Ways to Shatter Stereotypes" has been moved. Please click

    November 11, 2001 - News of the Week

    ADDITIONS to LINKS - Anti-Stigma Programs, Resources, Research


    This is the site of the Institute for the Study of Human Resilience, a new institute at Boston University's Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. Courtenay Harding, Ph.D., Director, is best known to the mental health community for her research on recovery from schizophrenia, and as the chief investigator for the Vermont Longitudinal Study, which analyzed outcome data that challenged long-held beliefs about prognosis.


    This new site, created by Patrick Bruckart of Glen Allen, Virginia, uses a person-centered interfaith approach to help make congregations of all faiths more welcoming to people with psychiatric disabilities.

  • ADDITIONS to LINKS - Education, Training, Rights Advocacy


    This is the site of Advocacy Unlimited, Inc., an education and advocacy organization in Wethersfield, Connecticut. Advocacy Unlimited has trained mental health advocates throughout Connecticut since 1994 and contributes regularly to national forums on education and training.


    This is the site of the Program in Consumer Studies and Training at the Missouri Institute of Mental Health. Jean Campbell, Ph.D., Director, first gained national recognition during the 1980's for her work on Wellness programs.


    This is the site of CONTAC, the Consumer Organization and Networking Technical Assistance Center in Charleston, West Virginia. CONTAC serves as a resource center for consumers/survivors/ex-patients and consumer-run organization across the United States.


    This website is now over two years old.
    Were wondering what YOU see when you visit it.

    Can you access the site easily?

    Is the text easy or hard to read? (size, color, etc.)

    Do the LINKS work?

    ANY COMMENTS OR SUGGESTIONS, however brief, will be appreciated. E-mail THANK YOU !

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    November 4, 2001 - News of the Week


    Smart-alecks do it. The best and brightest among us do it. Lots of people use psychiatric slurs to demean their enemies. Few labelers are aware that the belittling effects of slurs spread to millions of people with mental health needs.

    New York City's Mayor Ed Koch often called his critics "crazies" and "loonies."

    At the U.S. Senate hearings prior to Clarence Thomas's appointment to the Supreme Court, the senators suggested that Anita Hill was mentally disturbed to discredit her testimony about Thomas.

    A day after foreign terrorists murdered thousands of American civilians, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani sought to protect New York City's Islamic population by calling the criminal attackers "sick" and "insane," (TV news and New York Times, Sept. 13, 2001). Giuliani's motives were admirable, but his words were misleading and stigmatizing.

    Sometimes psychiatric slurs are tossed off lightly. A Bush administration official, talking about a possible U. N. Security Council condemnation of anthrax poisoning in the U. S. (New York Times, Nov. 1, 2001), suggested that the source of the anthrax could be "a bunch of right-wing nuts." Why did he not say "a bunch of domestic terrorists" or "a bunch of American criminals" ?

    Psychiatric slurs discredit opponents without naming any specific flaw. It's a hit-and-run technique. Many people would say such slurs are a relatively benign way to attack one's enemies.

    But in fact, psychiatric slurs are potent weapons. Society has deemed that a psychiatic label, even by itself and without cause of any kind, devalues the person labeled.

    In 1997, celebrity gossip columnist Liz Smith advised Martha Stewart ("the goddess of gracious living"), to sue for loss of earning ability when the National Enquirer labeled Stewart "mentally ill" with a borderline personality disorder. "That's a pretty damning statement," Smith wrote. (Newsday, Sept. 4, 1997).

    A successful libel suit may be a happy solution but it's unavailable to most of us. The realistic goal of mental health activists is to defeat the labels' capacity to hurt. This involves enlightening the public, not an easy task considering the lack of science-based evidence about what works best.

    Psychiatric survivors have found alternatives to the snail-like pace of social change. They recognize that when they discover their strengths, attributes, uniqueness, and worth -- however long that search may take -- they defeat the bias unfairly attached to labels. When they take part in programs that assist integration with their communities, and expand their roles in policy-making, they forge constructive and respected images of people with psychiatric disabilities.

    Sylvia Caras, the founder of People Who (, describes people with mental illnesses or psychiatric vulnerabilities as "People who experience mood swings, fear, voices, and visions." We don't know of a clearer, more non-biased way to put it.

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    October 28, 2001 - News of the Week


    The horrific destruction on September 11th has changed America's views about our vulnerability, our separation from the world's festering conflicts, and equally important, our notion that acts of mass destruction are the work of "madmen" and "lunatics." The past mislabeling of terrorists with psychiatric slurs has not only maligned psychiatric survivors, but it may well have misled our nation's policy-makers.

    We checked our archive of 1990's stigma reports to gauge the media's past coverage of terrorism and mass murder for political aims. News reports referred to Saddam Hussein, Iraqis, or Arabs in general as "madmen," "crazy," or "demented." Time magazine ran a cover story titled "When China Went Mad" and referred to China's Cultural Revolution as a "decade of madness." The Oklahoma City bomber was labeled "deranged" in a respected newspaper. The word "schizophrenia" was misused numerous times by some of the nation's most exemplary press to describe self-contradictory government policies (wrongly equating schizophrenia with split personality).

    By contrast, the media currently seem to be doing a better job of presenting terrorism as a social phenomenon that is unrelated to people with psychiatric disabilities. Most news reports draw a clear distinction between organized fanatic hatred and mental llnesses.

    A day after the September 11th disaster, the New York Times reported that "suicide bombers do not qualify for any psychiatric diagnosis." And the Sunday Times Magazine of October 28th drew the same conclusion in its cover story, "What Makes A Suicide Bomber? His psyche is the least of it." Television news and the major news magazines have generally included views that concur with the Times. Another sign of progress is the absence from most major media of the word "madman," a popular label for violent fanatics in the 1990's.

    One hopes that such clarifying messages will prove to be a valuable source of public education.

    WE WELCOME YOUR COMMENTS. If you have seen examples of terrorists labeled with psychiatric slurs in media reports, please let us know. Be sure to include the name of the source, the words used, and the date they were seen or heard. E-mail

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    PLEASE NOTE ! ! !



    We have just learned from the Massachusetts Anti-Stigma Campaign in Northampton (E-mail: that an extremely offensive Halloween costume, consisting of a straitjacket with a Hannibal Lechter mask, was sold in TARGET stores. The distributor is DISGUISE, "The world's largest costume company." (The information came from a NAMI Alert).

    This atrocious costume must not be repeated next year. To bury it forever, both the manufacturer and retailer need to hear from you NOW. The costume is called "Mental Patient" and is subtitled "Member of the Ward." It is described as a "canvas straitjacket, with straps, and a vinyl Hannibal-type face mask."


    Mr. Benoit Pousset, President
    11906 Tech Center Court
    Poway, CA 92064
    Tel: 858-391-3600
    Fax; 858-391-3601

    Mr. Bob Ulrich, CEO
    TARGET Stores
    P. O. Box 1392
    1000 Nicollet Mall
    Minneapolis, MN 55440
    Tel: 612-761-1301
    Fax: 612-307-8870

    (It appears that TARGET has removed the costume from their website's Halloween merchandise listings -- a hopeful sign that advocates messages are being heard.)

    The National Stigma Clearinghouse sent the following letter to Mr. Pousset, president of DISGUISE.

    We have just been informed that DISGUISE has marketed a "mental patient" Halloween costume featuring a straitjacket. As a symbol of violence and humiliation, this costume is deeply offensive to the mental health community.

    The U.S. Surgeon General has identified prejudice against people with psychiatric disabilities as a threat to their well-being. Thus, to plant prejudice in the minds of children is to inflict serious harm.

    It may interest you to know that the New York City Human Rights Commission censured an advertising agency for using a straitjacket "humorously" to sell shirts. The Commission stated that "the straitjacket is an extraordinarily strong symbol for mentally ill persons" and that the ads "promoted bias and limited equal treatment under the Human Rights Law."

    It is regrettable that you did not foresee the costume's impact. It might help to compare it to an "abused child" costume sporting bruises and broken bones, or a "terminal cancer patient" featuring a wasted body with tubes in every orifice.

    We ask you to immediately remove any "straitjacket" items from your inventory and your catalog. and that you withdraw straitjackets from any future commercial plans. Please understand, we do not believe you would intentionally cause harm.

    Please let us hear from you. Jean Arnold, National Stigma Clearinghouse

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    September 16, 2001 - News of the Week

    Click-on websites to help deal with grief, stress trauma, and anxiety:




  • To learn more about post traumatic stress disorder, click


    Mayor Giuliani Personifies New York City's Strength

    Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has won our eternal respect with his calm and steadfast handling of the horrific disaster at the World Trade Center.

    We must painfully note, however, the mayor's jarring comment calling the attackers "insane" and "sick" in a TV interview (also reported in the New York Times). The gravity of this national crisis calls for accurate information, not slurs that confuse.

    During the coming weeks and months, terrorism and our relationship to it will be thoroughly analyzed in the press. Below is an Op-Ed article from the New York Times -- an early sample of many viewpoints to come.
  • Op-ED, New York Times, September 14
    (copyright New York Times 2001)

    By AMOS OZ

    RAD, Israel -- A tide of religious and nationalistic fanaticism is on the rise throughout Islam, from the Philippines to Gaza and Libya and Algeria, from Afghanistan and Iran and Iraq to Lebanon and Sudan. Here in Israel we have been on the receiving end of this lethal fanatic tide: almost every day we witness the link between hateful incitement and mass murders, between religious sermons that celebrate jihad and its fulfillment in suicide bombs against innocent civilians.

    Being the victims of Arab and Muslim fundamentalism often blinds us so that we tend to ignore the rise of chauvinistic and religious extremism not only in the domain of Islam but also in various parts of the Christian world and indeed among the Jewish people. If it turns out that America's dreadful ordeal results from the fact that fanatic mullahs and ayatollahs persistently portray the United States as "The Great Satan" — then America, like Israel, "The Little Satan," must prepare itself for a long, hard struggle.

    Perhaps it is only human that underneath the shock and the pain there is a small voice in some of us here in Israel, which says "now at last they will all understand what we are going through" or "now they will all finally take our side."

    But this small voice is extremely dangerous for us: it may easily seduce us into forgetting that with or without Islamic fundamentalism, with or without Arab terrorism, there is no justification whatsoever for the lasting occupation and suppression of the Palestinian people by Israel. We have no right to deny Palestinians their natural right to self-determination. Two huge oceans could not shelter America from terrorism; the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza by Israel has not made Israel secure — on the contrary, it makes our self-defense much harder and more complicated. The sooner this occupation ends, the better it will be for Palestinians and Israelis alike.

    It is all too easy and tempting now to fall into all sorts of racist clichés about "Muslim mentality" or "Arab character" and other such rubbish [emphasis added]. The horrendous crime committed against New York and Washington is a sharp reminder that this is not a war between religions, nor a struggle between nations. This is, once more, the battle between fanatics for whom the end — any end, be it religious, nationalistic or ideological — sanctifies the means, and the rest of us who ascribe sanctity to life itself.

    Despite the abhorrent manifestation of joy in Gaza and Nablus while people in New York were still burning alive, let no decent human being forget that the vast majority of Arabs and Muslims are neither accomplices to the crime nor rejoicing in it. Almost all of them are as shocked and aggrieved as the rest of humankind. Perhaps they even have some special reason for worrying, as ugly sounds of undiscriminating anti-Islamic feelings can already be heard in some places. Such feelings are inappropriate — and they play right into the eager hands of the perpetrators of attacks against America.

    Let us remember: neither the West nor Islam nor the Arabs is evil or "The Great Satan." "The Great Satan" is personified in hatred and fanaticism. These two ancient mental failings still plague us. Let us be very careful not to be infected.

    Amos Oz is the author of the forthcoming "The Same Sea."

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    September 9, 2001 - News of the Week


    "It is vastly easier to amplify fear than it is to assuage it." (From an editorial, "The Statistical Shark," NYTimes, September 6, 2001)

    The Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC) maintains that the public's fear of people with mental illnesses stems from violence, mainly homicide. TAC proposes to eliminate these "stigmatizing" acts with tougher court-ordered-treatment laws. To get such laws passed, TAC focuses attention on rare violent acts, not only at the time they occur but with repeated reminders long afterward.

    This fear strategy reinforces existing stereotypes. On prime time television drama, for example, "mentally ill" characters are violent in 60 percent of their roles. Such distortion makes people with mental illnesses seem the most dangerous of all demographic groups -- three to four times more violent than other character groups on TV. (Numerous studies show that significantly higher rates of violence are found in abuse of alcohol and other substances, not mental illnesses.)

    The TAC's tactics are questioned in September's Psychiatric Services in an article analyzing mandated community treatment. The article, by John Monahan, et. al., states that "Advocates of outpatient commitment have explicitly 'sold' the approach largely by playing on public fears of violence." The authors conclude that involuntary outpatient commitment may be won at the cost of increasing prejudice, and with no certainty of reducing community violence.

    It is time for the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, the American Psychiatric Association, and the National Mental Health Association to publicly denounce the Treatment Advocacy Center's fear tactics.

    For more information, scroll up to "Archives Re Involuntary Outpatient Commitment" (just above).

    NOTE: "The Statistical Shark" may be downloaded free until Thursday, September 13. Click , then enter "The Statistical Shark" in Search box.

    September 2, 2001 - News of the Week


    The Entertainment Industries Council, Inc., ( has suggested ten ways to portray dramatic characters who have psychiatric conditions as authentic and non-stereotypic individuals.

    The Council's recommendations include showing people as complex individuals, providing accurate information about the particular condition being portrayed, avoiding connecting mental illnesses with violence, giving empathetic portrayals of difficulties encountered, and showing people with psychiatric disabilities as diverse, productive, functioning members of society.

    The U.S. Surgeon General set the stage for change in his groundbreaking report on mental health in 1999. The report called the public's fearful attitudes toward mental illnesses misplaced, and a barrier to treatment and recovery.

    SPOTLIGHT ON...Mental Illness is a "how and why" guide to representing mental illnesses responsibly. Click

    For a 2-page tipsheet that you can copy and circulate, e-mail your request to Be sure to include a mailing address.

    August 26, 2001 - News of the Week


    A major commitment of the Indiana Consortium for Mental Health Services Research (ICMHSR) is to use research to foster public awareness and improve public policy and decision-making on mental health issues.

    Last September, the Indiana Corsortium made national news with their publication of a unique study examining America's attitudes toward mental health problems over the past 50 years. The report, Americans' Views of Mental Health and Illness at Century's End; Continuity and Change, is posted in PDF format on their website ( For a hard copy of the report, E-mail your request to (Alejandra Capshew).

    Funding for the 3-year project came from the MacArthur Foundation; the data is from a "Mental Health Module" attached to the 1996 national survey conducted by the General Social Survey (GSS).

    The ICMHSR website also lists and describes 56 articles of wide-ranging interest to educators, students, advocates, researchers, mental health professionals, and members of the general public. The article Abstracts are posted online, with the full articles available by request (

    The ICMHSR, led by Dr. Bernice A. Pescosolido, plans to continue its research on the public's attitudes toward mental illnesses and mass media's role in shaping the public's understanding of psychiatric disability.

    NOTE: The General Social Survey is a nationwide survey of opinion, attitudes and behaviors of the American Population. The GSS has existed since 1972, primarily under the sponsorship of the National Science Foundation. Since 1977, the GSS has included "Topical Modules" on race, religion, the military, and abortion, in addition to a set of core questions.

    August 19, 2001 - News of the Week


    For a free copy, E-mail (Please be sure to include a mailing address.)

    In August 2000, the New Zealand Mental Health Commission issued the results of a three-year study of the role the media play in mental health.

    But instead of issuing a typical report, the Commission put their findings into an ingenious and compelling "newspaper tabloid," calling it THE DISCRIMINATION TIMES. The 24-page tabloid is intended for use solely as a training and education resource for people who work in the media and/or mental health sector.

    Page 1 of THE DISCRIMINATION TIMES carries a warning: "This document contains material which could be detrimental to your mental health. There are examples of newspaper clippings which badly represent people with mental health problems, and which could result in people feeling isolated and silenced."

    The Mental Health Commission was set up in 1996 to implement a National Mental Health Strategy. The overall plan is based on a "Map of the Journeys to equality, respect, and rights of people who experience mental illness." The media report is the work of the Commission's Anti-Discrimination Action Plan Team, and is part of the Commission's overarching strategy. New Zealand's experience with media misinformation will seem very familiar to activists in the U.S.

    At our request, the Commission generously sent us some copies of THE DISCRIMINATION TIMES. For a copy, while they last, E-mail Be sure to include a mailing address.

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    August 12, 2001 - News of the Week

    from Bill Lichtenstein, Ira Minot, and David Gonzalez. This item has been moved to Positive Visibility Postings. Please click below:

    August 5, 2001 - News of the Week


    E-mail, and

    On Thursday, August 2, CBS News chose to re-broadcast a biased report about schizophrenia and manic-depression, even though CBS was fully aware of the program's flaws. (The hour-long program, "Breaking Point," on 48 HOURS, first aired on April 12, 2000.)

    How many times will this inflammatory "infomercial" for court-ordered treatment be re-broadcast? How often will the public hear the frightening "statistic" that psychotic assailants with "untreated manic-depression or schizophrenia" kill people at the rate of 1,000 per year, or 20 per week (a bogus, unsubstantiated number) ?

    Last year, researchers at RAND, in the most complete review of literature ever conducted on forced-treatment, concluded that court-ordered treatment by itself has no independent effect on outcomes. The RAND report concludes: "The lack of empirical evidence about the comparative effectiveness of involuntary versus voluntary treatment is troubling -- decisions may be influenced more by advocacy than by fact (emphasis added)."

    Clearly "Breaking Point" is advocacy for the Treatment Advocacy Center's point of view. The program also uses the fear tactics that TAC favors to promote its case. In its first three minutes there are 14 references to violence. The program opens with a promise of a "showdown." Clanging doors, endless hallways, shattering glass, gratuitous violent headlines, and repeated use of the phrase, "Time Bomb," build dramatic suspense from beginning to end. Ostensibly a human interest story, "Breaking Point" raises the public's fears about mental illnesses and lmplies that forced-treatment is necessary for public safety.

    Only one side of an extremely controversial issue was presented. How can this be called journalism?

    Contact information for 48 HOURS is as follows: E-mail Telephone 212-975-4848. Mailing address is 48 HOURS, 524 West 57th Street, New York, NY 10019. You may also e-mail

    July 29, 2001 - News of the Week


    "Breaking Point," an hour-long program on CBS News's 48 HOURS, aired on April 12, 2000 and is now under consideration for re-broadcast.  (Note: The damaged was doubled; the program was re-broadcast)

    In its first three minutes, "Breaking Point" crammed 14 references to killing and violence. Its opening comments promised a "dramatic showdown." After an hour-long buildup to impending violence by a human "time bomb," a seemingly composed young man opened his apartment door to a squad of armed police and was calmly led away.

    Prime time opportunities to inform the public about mental illnesses are rare. "Breaking Point" missed an opportunity to look at innovative ways to deal with and head off psychiatric crises (except for some brief but excellent footage on police training.)

    The program purported to be an examination of the wrenching decisions that anguished families must make when a psychotic episode affects an individual's ability to function. But the segment was clearly designed to showcase the views and "statistics" of the Treatment Advocacy Center. The National Empowerment Center got a mere 25 seconds of airtime to present alternate views.

    Unfortunately, we have learned that "Breaking Point" is being considered for re-broadcast. The National Stigma Clearinghouse has written to Dan Rather asking for his help to keep the program from airing again.

    Below are excerpts from our letter to Dan Rather:
    It is troubling to learn that "Breaking Point," a 48 HOURS program that aired on April 12, 2000, is under consideration for re-broadcast. The purpose of this letter is to urge that "Breaking Point" is not aired again.

    The subtext of the program is biased in favor of views promoted by the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC) located in Arlington, Virginia. These views lead to expanding court-ordered treatment of people with psychiatric disabilities.

    In the first objective review (copyright 2000) of all Involuntary Outpatient Commitment studies done in the past, RAND researchers concluded that there is no evidence that court-ordered treatment is necesary to achieve compliance and good outcomes.

    "Breaking Point's" inflammatory language is also troubling. Numerous times, the words TIME BOMB dominated the screen or were spoken. The program's introduction warned viewers that innocent people minding their own business are "suddenly attacked" by psychotic assailants, leading to 1,000 homicides a year (that would be 20 a week), which is a bogus number created by TAC.

    Another unsubstantiated TAC statistic claims that 25 studies link untreated mental illnesses with violence. This statement is refuted on TAC's own website, where a list of studies shows that only 8 of them (half are 10-15 years old) mention a lack of treatment.
    Our letter also objected to the program's dramatic buildup to a violent ending. The feared violence (thankfully) did not happen.

    Along with the letter, we sent the following enclosures:
    Article: "Mindless and Deadly: Media Hype on Mental Illness and Violence"

    A page from RAND's Research Brief (with contact information for the full report)

    Article: "Psychiatrists Divided Over Usefulness of Outpatient Psychiatric Commitment"

    Chart: Dangerous Characters on Prime Time Television

    July 22, 2001 - News of the Week


    A group of British psychiatrists (the Critical Psychiatry Network) recently lodged a formal protest against a drug company's sponsorship of the Royal College of Psychistrists' annual meeting in London. According to a report in The Guardian (7/9/01 UK), the psychiatrists claim that the drug industry's marketing and money distort the mental health agenda to the point where pills are seen as the answer to all ills. In their letter of protest to the president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, members of the Critical Psychiatry Network charged that "Psychiatry is a major growth area for the pharmaceutical industry. By influencing the way in which psychiatrists frame mental health problems, the industry has developed new (and lucrative) markets for its products."



    Below are thoughtful comments by Marc Ross Miller, an advocate at the Long Island Center for Independent Living (e-mail address:


    "Whether the proposed psychiatric cure for emotional problems has been talk, as in the past, or medication, as it now generally is, the solutions have neglected the larger structural bases for emotional distress. For example, if, as studies routinely show, women suffer from depression twice as often as men, it strains credibility to believe that such a finding can be accounted for by biological differences alone.

    "To me, there is an obvious validity to the assumption that something about the patterned social situations of women account for the statistical gender difference in most, if not all, studies. If this is so, a medical treatment focused exclusively on changing patients (either changing the person's self through talk or their biochemistry with pills) leaves wholly unattended the structural sources of human pain.

    "As such, most psychiatric treatment is inherently conservative by implicitly supporting the systemic status quo. Medicine nearly always interprets 'illness' as a reflection of the individual physical pathology and rarely as a normal response to pathological social structures. Following this line of thinking, I find the current medical rhetoric that hypes medication as the 'cure' for depression to be both scientifically arrogant and politically retrograde."

    Marc Ross Miller, Resource Specialist/Advocate, Long Island Center for Independent Living.

    For more information about sociological approaches to the phenomena of depression, Marc Miller suggests "Speaking of Sadness," a book by David A. Karp, Oxford University Press.

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    July 15, 2001 - News of the Week


    "DON'T CALL ME NUTS! Coping With the Stigma of Mental Illness" is a unique new book co-authored by two respected mental health experts, Robert K. Lundin, an activist and editor, and Patrick Corrigan, a leading researcher on psychiatric rehabilitation. (The foreword is by Frederick J. Frese, III.)

    While the title may raise some eyebrows among advocates, it is likely to attract the attention of bookstore browsers who might otherwise pass the book by. (Discussions on the choice of title must have been interesting!)

    "DON'T CALL ME NUTS!" combines personal experience, social theory, advice about empowerment and disclosure, legal and political remedies for stigma and discrimination, and ways to change public attitudes. It is part handbook, part textbook, part catalyst for action.

    Clearly the book will be useful to mental health activists. By appealing to a broader audience, it is also likely to promote community education.

    "DON'T CALL ME NUTS!" by Patrick Corrigan and Robert Lundin (2001), Recovery Press, The University of Chicago, Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, 7230 Arbor Drive, Tinley Park, IL 60477. E-mail or

    July 8, 2001 - News of the Week


    "NEWS for a CHANGE" is a nuts-and-bolts handbook for health activists, chockfull of expert advice on media strategy. The book provides advocates with checklists, sample letters, step-by-step guides, and concrete examples drawn from the successes of real-life media campaigns. Chapters include: Developing Strategy, Getting to Know the Media, Thinking Like a Journalist, Creating News, and Evaluating Your Media Efforts.

    Lawrence Wallack, the principal author of "NEWS for a CHANGE," was the founding director of the Berkeley Media Studies Group, an organization conducting research and training on the use of media to promote healthy public policies.

    Social theory on public policy change is an integral part of each chapter, reflecting years of research and testing by the book's authors: Lawrence Wallack, Katie Woodruff, Lori Dorfman, and Iris Diaz.

    NEWS for a CHANGE: An Advocate's Guide to Working With the Media, (1999) Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA. Available in paperback and hard cover.

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    July 1, 2001 - News of the Week


    Report Is Marred by Misinformation and a Tendency to Sensationalize

    To contact 60 MINUTES II, E-mail

    A year ago, a biased and inaccurate report on 60 MINUTES about Involuntary Outpatient Commitment incensed mental health advocates. Last week, the still angry advocates skeptically awaited a 60 MINUTES II segment, "Call For Help," about how police handle 911 calls involving "emotionally disturbed persons" (or EDP, a law enforcement term). The program aired on CBS-TV on Tuesday, June 26.

    "Call For Help" began with host Dan Rather seated in front of a murky "slasher" graphic. Rather's script was designed to shock: "Every day, across the country, many police face a crisis that all too often ends in tragedy. It's called EDP, emotionally disturbed persons. These calls are surprisingly common. One in ten calls to 911 is an EDP. But what is also surprisingly common is their outcome. Either the death of the EDP who needs help or the police officer who is trying to help. Sometimes both are killed. When police misunderstanding meets mental illness, both sides are in danger."

    Rather's statement was a glaring distortion of fact. It implied that most calls to 911 involving an emotionally disturbed person are life-threatening. Worse, it stated that it is "surprisingly common" for police officers to be killed during these encounters. WRONG! (*See below.) Such misleading information defames people who are diagnosed with mental illnesses. The program also used video clips of gratuitous violence throughout the segment, presumably to keep the focus on danger.

    But compared to last year's biased segment on 60 MINUTES, "Call For Help" was a model of balance and sensitivity. Despite its misleading opening and its gratuitous violence, "Call For Help" made a strong case for progressive new police practices. The segment repeatedly stressed that police officers are trained to behave in ways that are the exact opposite of how they should act with emotionally disturbed people. The importance of police re-training was underscored by passionate law enforcement spokesmen, a social worker, and a visit to a model program in Memphis, Tennessee. (Nothing was said about reducing the need for 911 calls with more high-quality mental health programs.)

    Otto Wahl, an educator/author/advocate (, criticized the program's tendency to sensationalize, but praised its recognition that "these are more than just patients but also people who have skills, loved ones, aspirations" and he applauded the emphasis on achieving "outcomes where nobody gets hurt." Overall, Dr. Wahl felt the segment was more positive than negative.

    Survivor/activists deplored the program for its sensationalism, its lack of commentary by mental health consumers/survivors, and its fixation on negative stories of people diagnosed with mental illnesses. David Gonzalez ( said the program was an example of "media creating the news" and blamed the media's over-emphasis on violence for contributing to "vigilante justice" that ends in needless tragedy. Marc Ross Miller ( said: "Not once did we hear a person labeled with a mental illness speak. This reduces people to objects." Miller asserts that treating people as non-humans can result in pity and fear, and slows their acceptance as multidimensional human beings. Harold Maio ( wrote to CBS proposing "an idea for a story: 60 MINUTES seeing us as integrated citizens."


    The FBI's Uniform Crime Reports, an authoritative document issued annually, shows that police fatalities by "deranged persons" is extremely low. In both 1998 and 1999**, the number was 0 (zero). Over the past ten years, the total number is 9 (out of a total of 658 officers killed in the line of duty during that period.) Statistics on the number of emotionally disturbed persons killed by police are unavailable.

    So how on earth can 60 MINUTES II say that deaths are "surprisingly common" in EDP 911 calls?

    **Most recent available figure

    To contact 60 MINUTES II, E-mail

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