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Mental Health Organizations Join Together to #GiveStigmaTheBoot


23 mental health organizations have co-signed our letter urging Kenneth Cole to take down his offensive billboard and #GiveStigmaTheBoot. I’m so proud of the way the health community has rallied around the cause of addressing stigma!

Here’s the message we sent Kenneth Cole earlier today:

September 11, 2015

Mr. Kenneth D. Cole
Founder, Executive Chairman & Chief Creative Officer
Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc.
603 West 50th Street
New York, NY 10019

Dear Mr. Cole:

As experts in mental health, we were dismayed to see your new billboard linking access to mental health care to gun control. While many of the statements in your ad were correct, they linked violence and mental illness in a way that stigmatizes people with mental health issues.

The facts are clear: Most violent acts are committed by people who are not mentally ill, and the vast majority of people with mental illnesses are not violent. In fact, people with mental illness are more than twice as likely to be the victims of violence as the general public. Depending on the type of violent crime, prevalence was 6 to 23 times greater among persons with serious mental illness than among the general population. (1,2)

You are absolutely correct that many Americans with mental health issues don’t get the help they need. Only 38 percent of adults with mental illness receive treatment. The right answer is to get people treatment, not to marginalize them. Stigma about mental health is one of the biggest barriers preventing people from seeking care, and your billboard unfortunately adds to that stigma.

We urge you to take down this billboard and reduce the harm being done to those with mental illness.

American Psychiatric Association
Anxiety and Depression Association
New York State Psychiatric Association
Association for Ambulatory Behavioral Healthcare
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness
American Academy of Community Psychiatry
Association of Family Psychiatrists
American Association for Emergency Psychiatry
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
American Association of Psychiatric Administrators
Mental Health America
American Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists
National Alliance to Advance Adolescent Health
American Group Psychotherapy Association
National Association of Social Workers
American Psychoanalytic Association
National Disability Rights Network
American Psychological Association
NHMH - No Health without Mental Health
American Society of Adolescent Medicine
Southern Psychiatric Association
Michigan Psychiatric Society


  1. Desmarais SL, Van Dorn RA, Johnson KL, Grimm KJ, Douglas KS, Swartz MS. Community violence perpetration and victimization among adults with mental illnesses. Am J Public Health. 2014 Dec;104(12):2342-9. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2013.301680. Epub 2014 Feb 13.
  2. Teplin LA, McClelland GM, Abram KM, Weiner DA. Crime victimization in adults with severe mental illness: comparison with the National Crime Victimization Survey. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2005 Aug;62(8):911-21. Free full text is here if you want to review their specific findings.

What APA is Doing for You

This blog post is part of an occasional series highlighting how APA advocates on your behalf to support the profession of psychiatry and put our interests before key policymakers.


Post by Renée Binder M.D.

Renée Binder, M.D. is the Immediate Past President of APA. Read Dr. Binder's full biography.

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Comments (4) Add a Comment

  • Terri marcia

    Mental illness runs in my family. My mom has bipolar disorder , her mother had it, I have it. The truth is that it is less expensive to buy a gun then it is to pay for medications. It is easier to buy a gun then get an appointment , to purchase a gun you have a 3 day waiting period to get an appointment with a psychiatrist takes 3 months. All medications should be free to people with mental health issues and all purchases of guns should have rigorous back ground checks and lengthy waiting periods. I like the sign I think it should stay up

  • Feleena Rojas

    What Psychiatric syndromes contain bipolar?

  • Patricia

    Bipolar Disorder (formerly known as Manic-Depressive Disorder) is it's own diagnosis. There really aren't any "Psychiatric syndromes" that contain any diagnosis in the Psychiatric field. The DSM is the "official" tome for Psychiatric disorder/illnesses. They are always adding more to it or dialing in on the symptoms of the illnesses.

  • Ludwig Haskins

    Bravo to these professionals for producing this letter of protest. Not least of all for shifting the focus of attention into asking broader and more uncomfortable questions about the availability of, and the compulsion to own, guns.


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