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NAMI StigmaBuster Alert January 2008

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NAMI StigmaBuster Alert
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Britney Spears

NAMI purposely has not spoken out about the Britney Spears ordeal in recent weeks,
in part because we do not presume to diagnose anyone's illness and try to respect a
person's privacy—even when it's being violated by others.

We also have not wanted to feed the media circus.

Even Dr. Phil, who tried to exploit the story, has expressed regret for saying that
the 26-year old singer was "in dire need of both medical and psychological
attention."
"If I had to do it over again," he said, "I probably wouldn't make any statement at
all. Period."

***********************
NAMI StigmaBuster Alert
***********************
Britney Spears

NAMI purposely has not spoken out about the Britney Spears ordeal in recent weeks,
in part because we do not presume to diagnose anyone's illness and try to respect a
person's privacy—even when it's being violated by others.

We also have not wanted to feed the media circus.

Even Dr. Phil, who tried to exploit the story, has expressed regret for saying that
the 26-year old singer was "in dire need of both medical and psychological
attention."

"If I had to do it over again," he said, "I probably wouldn't make any statement at
all. Period."

Many StigmaBusters have been appalled by sensationalized media coverage of the
story, particularly supermarket tabloids like The Star, which ran the headline
"Britney's insane; her spiral into madness." However, a few persons have praised
PEOPLE magazine, which ran a cover story on "Britney's Mental Illness," while
providing a relatively balanced discussion about "likely bipolar disorder," that
focused on symptoms and the need for treatment.

Roy Peter Clark, vice-president of the Poynter Institute, a leading center of
journalism training and ethics, wrote in an on-line column
(http://poynter.org/column.asp?id=78&aid=135728) : "One of the terrible side effects
of America's celebrity and media culture is a per vasive cynicism about addiction
and mental illness...We are all complicit....I'm no Puritan when it comes to gossip,
and I've grown up reading the tabloids, but there is clearly a danger zone, when
life and health are at stake, when the best thing the press can do is back off. That
time for Spears is probably now."

"Avoiding the daily soap opera does not require journalists to abstain from critical
and analytical pieces on celebrity, addiction, gender and mental illness," Clark
continued.

"Perhaps the troubles of a particular celebrity might be an occasion to turn the
camera away to the less intriguing but more important cases of mental illness in our
own communities."

What You Can Do

* Use the Britney Spears story as an opportunity to talk with friends, neighbors
or co-workers about stigma, the nature of mental illnesses, and the fact that
treatment works—if a person gets it.
* Write letters to broadcasters or editors whose coverage you think is excessive,
sensationalized or uses stigmatizing language.
* Enclose a copy of Roy Peter Clark's column—asking them to seek a higher ethical
standard and to publish stories about mental illness in your own community.
* If you see offensive language on the cover of a magazine in stores, tell the
managers. Ask them politely to remove it—or at least pass the message on to the
owners or regional managers.

You can comment on-line to BP Magazine (http://www.bphope.com/newsletter.php) about
"Britney, bipolar and the media." Send us your comments also. Has there been
coverage by media sources that you believe was especially awful or especially
responsible?

Actor Joe Pantoliano recently was featured on the NBC Nightly News
(http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/22422615#22422615) speaking about mental
illness and the movie CANVAS (http://www.canvasthefilm.com). The film will be
released on DVD on January 29 and can be ordered directly from ScreenMedia
(http://shop.screenmediafilms.net/product/show/11028) or through Amazon.com and
other outlets. Organizations interested in holding public screenings should contact
Alison Howard at ScreenMedia: [email protected] (mailto:[email protected])
. A public screening fee of $700 includes 100 copies of the DVD that can be donated
to local libraries to help provide public education about mental illness or used for
fundraising activities.



Stella March, National Coordinator
NAMI StigmaBusters

www.nami.org/stigma

CANVAS DVD

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