Prepared by National Stigma Clearinghouse

News Archive 2005 August-December

Please scroll down for earliest entries

November 13, 2005 - News of the Week


Source: The Australian

New 'Mental illness' film awards
November 7, 2005

MOVIES containing positive images of people dealing with mental illness are the subject of a new Australian film competition.

The Hope Awards, believed to be a world first, challenged filmmakers to create short films with a message of hope for people managing and recovering from mental illness.

Television presenter Andrew Denton, patron of the Hope Awards, said they would help change attitudes towards mental illness.

"I'm delighted to support the Hope Awards – a creative initiative that will help remove the stigma often associated with mental illness," Denton said.

"The media play a powerful role in shaping attitudes towards people with mental illness, and inaccurate and insensitive portrayals compound the daily challenges many face."

About 62 per cent of Australians with a mental illness do not utilise mental health services, which the Mental Health Council believed was due in part to the stigma surrounding mental health.

Helen Connor, chair of the Australian Mental Health Consumer Network, said negative images were very damaging for people trying to manage their illness.

"The Hope Awards will help counter the overwhelmingly tragic, comic or violent stereotypes we see, and improve community attitudes," Ms Connor said.

Entries into the awards are open until March 10, 2006. Winners will share $20,000 in prize money.    

© The Australian

End of article

(reprinted using Fair Use standard)

October 30, 2005 - News of the Week



A big boost for consumer/survivor initiatives is a brand-new online national directory of programs and services run by and for people with psychiatric vulnerabilities.

These historically-undervalued and underfunded programs, sometimes called peer support programs, not only reduce hospital stays and emergency visits but improve people's health outcomes and support their recovery, according to a Canadian study released in July. (Click here)

This is a first-of-its-kind Directory (click here) created by the National Mental Health Consumers' Self-Help Clearinghouse, a national consumer technical assistance center funded by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Consumer-driven programs (CDS) vary greatly in size and design but share a vision of consumer participation in all aspects of life, including meaningful employment, education, and relationships with friends and family. They may be found in a range of settings from large mental health service agencies to grassroots volunteer efforts.

The purpose of the Directory is to provide consumers, social scientists and service-providers with essential resources on CDS, including background materials, contact information, pertinent research findings and discussion by leaders in the field.

Visitors to the Directory site can search by name, locality, or program type to retrieve up-to-date information on leading CDS around the country.

In addition the site builds on the expertise of the Clearinghouse network in providing multiple technical assistance resources to foster the development of new and ongoing programs, and other CDS-related materials, many available by free download.

Any and all consumer/survivor initiative programs in the United States are invited to apply for inclusion in the Consumer-Driven Services Directory. Please use the application form found on the Web site at Click here

Application materials may also be requested by writing to or NMHCSH Clearinghouse, 1211 Chestnut St., Suite 1207, Philadelphia, PA 19107.

For further information please contact:
Jennifer Melinn
National Mental Health Consumers' Self-Help Clearinghouse

Source: owner-the 10/24/05

September 18, 2005 - News of the Week


"More than one-fourth of individuals with a severe mental illness were victims of violent crime in the past year, almost 12 times general population rates, according to a study in the August issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, a JAMA Archives journal." (Feinberg School of Medicine on Aug. 29, 2005)


People with Mental Illness More Often Crime Victims," by Aaron Levin, Psychiatric News, Sept. 2, 2005

Mentally Ill More Likely to Be Victims of Violence, by JAMA, Aug. 29, 2005

Violence and Mentally Ill, by JAMA, Aug. 21, 2005

Individuals With Severe Mental Illness At High Risk To be Victims of Crime, by JAMA, Aug. 21, 2005

In an editorial accompanying the articles, Leon Eisenberg, M.D., of Harvard Medical School, Boston, writes, "Stigma against mental illness turns the world on its head. Blaming the victims rationalizes neglect and maltreatment. In the public mind, violence is associated with mental illness. Yes, there is a strong association, but the direction of causality is the reverse of common belief: persons who are seriously mentally ill are far more likely to be the victims of violence than its initiators. The evidence produced by Linda Teplin et al settles the matter beyond question."

Dr. Eisenberg points out that although life in the community is precarious for persons with serious mental illness, institutions also have safety issues and most persons with severe mental illness express a preference for community living. "What should be done?" Dr. Eisenberg writes. "Teplin and colleagues make thoughtful recommendations. For patient care, they propose systematic screening and monitoring patients for victimization (commonly not reported to case managers), implementing skill-based prevention programs to help patients learn to minimize risk, and interventions to reduce revictimization. At a policy level, they call for building collaborative relationships between the mental health and criminal justice systems and advocacy for improved housing."

"These proposals are on target but do not go far enough," Dr. Eisenberg concludes. "The underlying lesson is that the neighborhoods in which patients are forced to live because of limited income are what make them so vulnerable. Patients with severe mental illness who live in urban slums are victimized by 'legal' criminals as well: moneylenders who charge exorbitant interest rates, hotel keepers who demand bribes for rooms, bullies who accost them for money when Supplementary Security Income checks are issued, and police who do not defend them. The aggregation of persons who are seriously mentally ill in urban areas that are not safe for any inhabitants, let alone for those at cognitive disadvantage, is why rates of victimization are so high."

© Copyright 2004-2005 - HealthCare Articles All Rights Reserved.

Reprinted using Fair Use Standard

September 4, 2005 - News of the Week


"Psychiatric disorders do not fit into neat boxes"

Diagnostic categories defined by symptom checklists have spawned harmful mass-application of treatments

Source: BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/09/02 23:50:19 GMT

Madness of labelling mental illness
By Michelle Roberts
BBC News health reporter

Scientific advances such as scanners that see into the brain and powerful mind-altering drugs make it tempting to give a diagnosis to things society terms "mental illnesses".

But we should resist from using psychiatric labels because there is no clear division between madness and sanity, experts argue.

To label someone as schizophrenic, for example, falsely groups people with a wide range of problems together.

Followers of psychiatric phenomenology - the study of lived experience in mental illness - say it is time to take a step back.

False assumptions

At the turn of the 20th Century, doctors relied as much on what a patient said they were experiencing as they did on piecemeal symptoms to work out what course of action, if any, to take.

But now science has outstripped this, meaning doctors look to books containing check lists of symptoms to decide how to classify and treat a given individual's "disorder."

Professor Paul Mullen, professor of forensic psychiatry at Monash University, Australia, said: "At some time towards the end of the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th Century there was a real effort to make sense of the whole domain of madness.

"They tried to separate it out into what was meant to be temporary categories so that they would allow more precise development of scientific investigations and treatments.

"What has happened in the last 100 years is these concepts became verified and they were turned into themes with operational definitions."

One size does not fit all

So you have a menu that tells you what schizophrenia is, for example. But this does not take account of subtleties and variation from patient to patient, he said. "It has none of the recognition that schizophrenia is not a disorder but a wide range of conditions having a variety of different contributions."

He said going by the rule book was madness and often leads to confusion and problems, including misdiagnosis and incorrect treatment.

Professor Mullen said a famous example of confusion was the case of John Hinckley, the man who shot the then US President Ronald Reagan in 1981.

When he was tried in court, psychiatrists ran into problems when trying to categorise Mr Hinckley's motivation.

It transpired that Mr Hinckley was obsessed with actress Jodie Foster. He believed he could win Miss Foster's attention, and ultimately her affection, by shooting Mr Reagan and hence becoming famous himself.

Although Mr Hinckley was found not guilty of attempted murder by reason of insanity, psychiatrists were unable to categorise him as having "erotomania" - a delusional, romantic preoccupation with a stranger, often a public figure - because he did not meet one of the strict diagnostic requirements. He did not believe Ms Foster was deeply in love with him.

"Grey areas"

Professor Richard Bentall, professor in experimental clinical psychology at the University of Manchester, agrees.

He said: "The idea that there is a clear division between 'mad' and 'sane' people, and that distinct psychiatric categories like 'schizophrenic' actually exist, is resulting in the mass-application of treatments which, while benefiting some, are very harmful to others.

"And because psychiatric patients are seen as having a biological brain illness which affects their rationality, they are not usually allowed a say in the matter."

He said that identifying and addressing the problems the sufferer, rather than the psychiatrist, perceives creates an understanding of each person's condition which is far more scientific, humane and effective than a blanket diagnosis.
"It also allows us to identify people at risk of psychological breakdown earlier, and keep them out of the traditional cycle of diagnosis and treatment."


Even proponents of phenomenology say there is a line to be drawn with this approach.

A dilemma arises when the individual has no insight into their psychiatric disturbance and does not think that what they are experiencing or their behaviour is a problem, but others do.

A big issue is how to deal with people who are violent.

For example, a person's behaviour may threaten their own safety or that of others.

On the one hand the individual does not want or think he or she needs treatment. On the other hand their loved ones or society in general thinks or insists that they do need and have to have help.

Professor Bill Fulford, professor of philosophy and mental health at the University of Warwick and a consultant psychiatrist in Oxford, said sometimes intervention against a person's wishes may be necessary.

Experts will continue the debate surrounding psychiatric phenomenology at the Institute of Psychiatry, London on September 5 and 6, 2005.

Reprinted using Fair Use Standard

August 21, 2005 - News of the Week


"Loonatics Unleashed" Will Premiere in Fall on Kids' WB

"Loonatics Unleashed" gives new life to the most damaging stereotype faced by the mental health community: the misconception that people with psychiatric conditions threaten public safety.

Warner Brothers is seemingly unaware that their ill-chosen title, like an ethnic or racial slur, is crude, demeaning, and exploitative.

And if "Loonatics Unleashed" finds an audience the name will soon be everywhere. WB's dream is our nightmare.

The new series updates favorite Looney Tunes characters such as Daffy Duck (now Danger Duck) and Bugs Bunny (now Ace Bunny) by turning them into futuristic superheroes said to be "descendants" of the 1940's originals. WB's new 6-character team will try to capture an audience of tots to pre-teens on Saturday mornings, beginning in the Fall.

Recycling legendary characters is a high-stakes gamble. WB's February announcement of "Loonatics" met criticism from the press and from indignant Looney Tunes fans who were turned off by the mean-looking, skinny, robot-like images. WB heeded the critics, and the most recently released bunny image shows considerable revision (see articles and photos below, NewYork Times, 6/6/2005 and Wall Street Journal, 2/20/2005, MSNBC/Associated Press, 2/17/2005). Click here for revised images.

But while the cartoon may look less sinister now than it did in February when we first reported it, its new name,"Loonatics Unleashed," is far worse than before. Sample: A GOOGLE search for the title asks the searcher: Do you mean "lunatics unleashed"?

We urge advocates to let Warner Brothers know your views. (See letter below.)

Below is information to help you. Please contact Jean Arnold ( with any questions.

If possible, copies of your letters and e-mails should go to local television broadcasters and press.


David Janollari, President
Warner Brothers Entertainment
4000 Warner Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91522
Tel: 818-977-6200
Fax: 818-977-6203

Sander Schwartz, President
Warner Brothers Animation
15301 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA 91403
Tel: 818-977-8700

(3 articles, a letter, and a NAMI Alert)

ARTICLE, June 6, 2005:

"It's 2772. Who Loves Ya, Tech E. Coyote?"

Source: The New York Times (


Four months after initial designs caused an Internet uproar, the final look of the characters in ''Loonatics Unleashed,'' a new animated television series starring descendants of the stars of the famous Warner Brothers Looney Tunes cartoons, have been completed.

''Loonatics Unleashed,'' which is part of the Kids' WB fall schedule, is a comedy adventure set in the year 2772. The series finds the Earth flung off its axis and protected by six superheroes, the Loonatics. The team comprises Ace Bunny (Charlie Schlatter), Danger Duck (James Marsden), Spaz B. Wilde and Tech E. Coyote (Kevin Michael Richardson), Rev Runner (Rob Paulsen) and Lexi Bunny (Jessica DiCicco). Warner Brothers Animation and Kids' WB are scheduled to announce the names of the characters and the voice cast today.

''We're constantly looking for new and different ways to extend the franchises that we're fortunate enough to have in our library,'' said Sander Schwartz, the president of Warner Brothers Animation. ''This is really a whole new show that tips its hat to the original Looney Tunes.''

The futuristic heroes have some very popular ancestors, who in turn have some very vocal fans. In February, when initial images for the characters were released, fans and the media reacted loudly. The designs were occasionally called sleek, but were more often described as dark and menacing in newspapers, including The Houston Chronicle and USA Today. One fan, Thomas Adams, an 11-year-old in Tulsa, Okla., started a petition at his school and a Web site,, to protest the changes. ''I wouldn't have anticipated the reaction, but fortunately, it was a good reminder of the popularity of the characters and the esteem to which our audience holds them,'' Mr. Schwartz said.

''I think there was a misunderstanding,'' said Betsy McGowen, the senior vice president and general manager of Kids' WB. ''They thought we were updating and changing the original Looney Tunes. We love Looney Tunes the way they are.'' She added: ''We always thought of these as new and different characters. We always thought about this as an extension of the exciting brand, not a replacement.''

Warner executives had a different experience when ''Tiny Toon Adventures,'' produced by Steven Spielberg, was announced. The reaction to the show was largely positive. The series was given a prime-time premiere on CBS in 1990, before moving to syndication. ''Tiny Toon Adventures'' was later broadcast on Fox and WB. The reviews for the series were favorable.

In a preview provided by the studio, the animation in ''Loonatics Unleashed'' was like that of other WB series like ''The Batman'' or ''Teen Titans,'' inspired by anime with a technolike soundtrack and bright, kinetic displays of action. That similarity is intentional, executives said. Ms. McGowen said the show was designed for children who have grown up on anime and to fit into the Kids' WB schedule, where it will be shown alongside ''The Batman,'' ''Pokémon,'' and ''Xiaolin Showdown,'' among others.

Ms. McGowen and Mr. Schwartz said the Loonatics have tested favorably with focus groups of the intended audience, children ages 6 to 11. The series's initial plans called for 26 half-hour episodes, spread over two seasons. Each episode will have an ''A'' and ''B'' story with ''ample opportunity for comedic pauses,'' said Mr. Schwartz.

One difference between the new and the original Looney Tunes characters is how they interact. ''Unlike their ancestors who were rivals, they're working together as a team,'' said Ms. McGowen. Their powers will also be liabilities as much as assets. Consider Danger Duck, who can teleport but cannot necessarily control where he ends up. ''Even though the characters are superheroes, they're not invincible,'' she said. Those sometimes faulty powers will lead to humor and some lessons. ''They learn from each other,'' she said, ''and they are empowering as a group and for the audience.''

Working with the descendants of such beloved cartoon icons is a lot of pressure, Mr. Schwartz said. ''I think we're doing it right, but I'll be biting what's left of my fingernails between now and the premiere,'' he said.

''Our hearts are in the right place,'' Mr. Schwartz added. ''I hope that the audience and the critics and the people who were initially off put by the art they saw will come around and appreciate the show for its own merits.''
End of article

Reprinted using Fair Use Standard


LINK: Article, Feb. 17, 2005: "Bugs Bunny gets an extreme makeover," MSNBC/Associated Press, Feb. 17, 2005

LINK: Article, Feb. 20, 2005: "WB seeks revitalized cartoon franchise with new look for Bugs Bunny and friends," by Brook Barnes, The Wall Street Journal /, Feb. 20, 2005


From Mary and Roy Neville, Schenectady, NY                       

August 17, 2005
David Janollari, president
Kids' WB
4000 Warner Blvd.
Burbank, Cal 91522
Sander Schwartz, president
Warner Brothers Animation
15301 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, Cal 91403
We've learned that Kids' Warner Brothers Network has re-created its Looney Toons characters like Bugs Bunny and Wile E. Coyote to turn them into a far different bunch for a new television cartoon series called "Loonatics", expected to air this fall on Saturday mornings.
We urge you not to use the name "Loonatics" in titling this new series because of the perception that the wild and menacing behavior of the new cast of characters is meant to represent the behavior of mentally ill people.
We also beg you to soften the behavior of these zany, post-20th Century characters so they are not so obviously out to do harm to others and do it violently. Surely our children's audiences deserve better than this.
We believe your naming the show "Loonatics" is misguided and will have a stigmatizing effect on all those who have a mental illness. Your viewers will easily connect the words Loonatic and lunatic and think that you mean these characters are acting as lunatics--mentally ill people.
Mentally ill people come in all shades of behavior, however; as a group they are far from a wild, undisciplined bunch of people. Some are terribly fearful, withdrawn, pained in their silence; others confused and gamely going on with life, surviving with the protection of others; still others we see as failing to live up to the challenges, dropping out and losing out—victims of their depression or delusions that rob them of a future.
It is terribly sad for all of us who are parents or brothers or sisters of someone with an incapacitating mental illness to realize how much potential all these children once had before they got sick.
These are dreadful brain disorders that afflict so many gifted and wonderful young people. They face tremendous odds going through life because of the way society views them and their disabilities.
We're especially concerned about the way the television media shapes the attitudes of people in ways to humiliate, disrespect or undervalue those with mental disabilities.
Somehow these attitudes become so pervasive in society that Congress can ignore the mentally ill when it cuts Medicaid or housing money affecting them, and nice people complain about mentally ill people hanging around downtown (about the only places they can go) or moving into their neighborhoods. Landlords refuse to rent to someone with some identifying mental trait and bosses won't hire someone who is otherwise qualified because they fear something they don't know about the person.

These are the realities of prejudice our adult children face. Please understand how sensitive this issue is for us--how any words your media experts use to market or advertise a show like this rebounds against the people we love the most. 
Add our voice to the many others who have complained about your choice of name for the TV series and your depiction of the former fun loving, wisecracking characters into menacing punks. It's really not justified.
Mary Neville, president       
Roy Neville, treasurer
(National Alliance for the Mentally Ill of Schenectady, NY)

NAMI ALERT, 3/15/05


Looney Tunes To Become "Loonatics"

If Warner Brothers (WB) Entertainment has its way, new, slightly menacing-looking versions of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and other classic cartoon characters will appear in Fall 2005 as part of a brand new Saturday morning television series.

The new cartoon series has been announced publicly under the name "Loonatics," although WB recently told NAMI that the name is being changed to "Loonatics Unleashed," subject to review by WB's Legal Department.

Set in the year 2772, the cartoon involves travel in a space ship. Expect the characters to appear also on spin-off merchandise. "That's the ultimate goal of all kids programming," WB Entertainment president David Janollari recently told the /Wall Street Journal/. "If we score, it's a gold mine."

If WB scores, it also means perpetuating one of the more offensive slang terms for people with mental illnesses—"loonatics" as a version of "lunatics," regardless of whether they are leashed or unleashed. "Unleashed," however, is also offensive, because of its connotation of restraints.

Television shapes perceptions. WB essentially will be "programming" kids contrary to the public health concerns of the U.S. Surgeon General and others. Please ask them to find a new name.

        * Drop both "Loonatics" and "Loonatics Unleashed" as the name for     the new cartoon series.
        * Don't program offensive slang and stigma to kids.
        * Don't insult people with mental illnesses or their families.
        * Don't encourage schoolyard taunts and bullies.
        * Support the U.S. Surgeon General's campaign to promote treatment     and suicide prevention. This is a serious issue. Not something     that's appropriate for a television cartoon series.
        * Make sure WB's Legal Department realizes that the insensitivity of     the name to people with mental illnesses (including WB employees)     risks liability under the Americans with Disability ACT (ADA).     They should consider themselves on notice.

David Janollari
Warner Brothers Entertainment
4000 Warner Boulevard, Building 34R
Burbank, CA 91522
818-977-6203 (fax)

Send a message also to:
Sandor Schwartz
WB Animation Division

August 14, 2005 - News of the Week


(2) A NEW BOOK "On Our Own, Together" ASSESSES PEER PROGRAMS (see below for links)

(1) Canadian Study Finds Supports for and by people with mental illnesses are key to recovery

Press Release, 7/28/05
Source: Google Alert

TORONTO, July 28 /CNW/ - A report released today shows that consumer/survivor initiatives (CSIs) play a critical role in promoting recovery for people with mental illness, but have been historically undervalued.

"Consumer/Survivor Initiatives: Impact, Outcomes and Effectiveness," has gathered research which demonstrates CSIs are vital to the mental health care system; they improve people's health outcomes and support recovery, as well reducing the use of hospital, emergency and other expensive services. The evidence the report offers is clear:

  • One study demonstrates that the mean number of days in hospital for the participants dropped from 48.36 to 4.29 after becoming involved with a CSI.

  • Another study showed that CSIs saved more than $12 million in reduced hospital stays for three hospitals over the course of one year.

  • People with mental health problems who described themselves as "lonely" and were partnered with a peer mentor used an average of $20,300 less per person in hospital and emergency room services in the year after discharge.

  • "The provincial government has identified that people need to be involved in their health care," said David Kelly, Executive Director of the Ontario Federation of Community Mental Health and Addiction Programs (OFCMHAP), one of the organizations which developed the report. "CSIs have been at the forefront of this area for many years."

    Shawn Lauzon of the Ontario Peer Development Initiative (OPDI), a provincial association of CSIs and a partner in the report's development, said "This report is the first to make the case so clearly; CSIs are good for people with mental illness, and they're good for the health care system as a whole."

    "Despite the money they save the health care system, CSIs have received no new investments for many years," noted Karen McGrath, CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Ontario, another of the report's partners. "The provincial government's goal of moving care into the community means that increasing support to CSIs is a logical next step."

    Paul Garfinkel, CEO of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, adds "We know from our own experience here at CAMH that consumer-run businesses, training programs, peer support groups are enormously valuable in developing skills, building social relationships, and promoting independence. They are making a tremendous difference here at CAMH. The trouble is there aren't enough of them."

    CSIs are run for and by people with mental health problems, or who have received mental health services. CSIs take many forms, including employment and training programs, peer support, advocacy, and Patient Councils at both general and psychiatric hospitals. They support people in transition from hospital to community and help people with mental illness take control of their lives and recovery.

    The report was developed in partnership with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the OPDI, CMHA, Ontario and OFCMHAP. The full report can be found at each organization's web site, including

    For further information: contact: David Kelly, OFCMHAP, (416) 490-8900
    ext. 22, (416) 822-0712; Shawn Lauzon, OPDI, (416) 484-8785 ext. 238; Liz Scanlon, CMHA, Ontario, (416) 977-5580 ext. 4131; Media Relations, CAMH, (416) 595-6015
    Ontario Federation of Mental Health and Addiction Programs.


    (2) AN INFORMATIVE, HANDS-ON BOOK about peer programs has just been released. Click "On Our Own, Together; Peer Programs for People With Mental Illness" edited by Sally Clay, June 2005.

    This anthology with glossaries, contact lists, and directories describes eight successful programs of different design, but with similar core values that foster mutuality and hope. The book is highly praised by Patricia Deegan, William A. Anthony, and Courtenay Harding, who are among the most respected members of the mental health recovery-oriented movement.

    For more details about "On Our Own, Together," go to: Description by Vanderbilt University Press

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