Wednesday, January 12, 2005


StigmaBusters has a new target: a straitjacketed teddy bear that comes with its own commitment papers.
The Vermont Teddy Bear Co. said Wednesday it would continue selling its strait-jacketed "Crazy for You Bear" through Valentine's Day, despite protests from mental health advocates.

"We recognize that this is a sensitive, human issue and sincerely apologize if we have offended anyone," the company said in a statement. "That was certainly not our intent.

"This bear was created in the spirit of Valentine's Day and as with all of our bears it was designed to be a light-hearted depiction of the sentiment of love," it added.

The bear, being marketed for Valentine's Day, comes with commitment papers and is meant to convey out-of-control love.

Mental health advocates believe the bear is "a tasteless use of marketing that stigmatizes persons with mental illness," Jerry Goessel, the executive director of the Vermont chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, wrote to the Shelburne-based company.

Stigmabusters mobilizes mental health advocates to campaign against stigmatizing, demeaning portrayals of the mentally ill. They once launched a campaign against Nestle's "Tasty Taffy Tangy Candy Bar." This candy carried the names "Psycho Sam," "Loony Jerry," and "Weird Wally." Their website asks,
Are you angry about outdated, outrageous, offensive portrayals or language about persons with mental illness? Become a StigmaBuster and tell the people creating or promoting these ads, characters, editorials and other stereotypes how you feel about their hurtful, demeaning and dehumanizing creations and pronouncements.

Here's how it works:
• Local persons/affiliates deal directly with their own local radio-TV, newspapers and any other business using offensive language or portrayals.
• State Organizations deal with situations in their communities and statewide stigma issues in the media.
• NAMI StigmaBusters E-mail Alerts will inform you about all situations in national media, films, TV, magazines, ads, and press like The Washington Post, NY Times. LA Times, etc. The Alerts will provide details about the offensive portrayals and/or language with the name and e-mail or mailing address of the person responsible for the situation. This will unleash a flood of messages to educate the offending parties. We will inform you about any responses received - positive or negative.
• StigmaBusters also sends letters of appreciation and commendation to producers of TV or motion picture films for their accurate portrayal of a character with a mental illness.

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