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Coalition Counters Harmful Movie Campaign

A coalition of Canadian health organizations has banded together to fight the inaccurate, insensitive and hurtful depictions of mental illness in the promotional campaign for the 20th Century Fox film, "Me, Myself & Irene."

The coalition believes that the campaign reinforces negative stereotypes of people living with mental illnesses, encouraging fear, mistrust and ignorance and, in the worst case scenario, may discourage those in need from seeking help.

Jim Carrey plays a person with multiple personalities at war with each other in the film. Promotional materials include: television ads that refer to Carrey's character as a "schizo," t-shirts that read "I am schizophrenic, so am I," a pill bottle of jelly beans claiming to be a cure for schizophrenia - with a side effect of genital elephantiasis - and the tag line "From Gentle to Mental."

"Separately each of these items is outrageous, but combined they are nothing short of a full assault on the 300,000 Canadians with schizophrenia and millions of others affected by this and other mental illnesses," says Barry Boyack, Executive Director of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada. "The movie ad campaign promotes the myth that schizophrenia is a split personality and implies that people with a mental illness are violent. It mocks the fact that people with this disease - which is marked by a loss of touch with reality - must take medication, which can have serious side effects."

"It's not sufficient to laugh this off as a comedy movie that will not affect society's view of mental illness," says Dr. Pam Forsythe, Executive Director of the Canadian Psychiatric Association. "Corporations throughout the world pay huge sums of money to have their products 'placed' in films because they know movies have a tremendous impact on our culture. Anyone who doesn't believe that movies impact behaviour should ask someone who ran a sea-side resort during the summer of Jaws, who sold BMW Z3 roadsters after Goldeneye or who worked in a pet store following the release of 101 Dalmatians."

A recent report in The British Journal of Psychiatry provides further evidence that media portrayals can add to the stigma society places on mental illness.

The coalition strongly urges the promoters, distributors and producers of the movie to: - Remove all inaccurate and offensive advertising and promotional materials for this film from current broadcast and distribution. - Make a public apology for the damaging portrayal of people living with a mental illness in the promotion of this movie. - Include corrective educational statements and disclaimers in the theater and video release versions of this movie. - Direct resources from Canadian film proceeds toward Canadian community education to counter the negative and disparaging misconceptions that have been reinforced and introduced with the promotion of this movie, as well as for research into mental illnesses in Canada.

Dr. Tomislav Svoboda of Seaton House, who works with mentally ill people who are homeless, adds "We call on those who will profit from this movie, essentially profiting from mocking mental illness, to take responsibility to correct the damage they are causing."

The growing coalition was founded by the Schizophrenia Society of Canada, the Mood Disorders Association of Canada, the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Canadian Psychiatric Association, Mark Quigg, MD and Tomislav Svoboda, MD. Within a day of issuing its call for support, the coalition received the endorsement of: the Canadian Nurses Association, the Canadian Psychological Association, the National Network for Mental Health, Self-Help Connection in Nova Scotia, the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists, Homewood Health Centre, BC Psychiatric Association and many individual citizens and physicians.


, June 16, 2000, CNW/via NewsEdge Corporation

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