Hypocrites, Empress Hotel and Hammock Days!

Pete, Patti, and Bella (see end of blog)
As promised, I began sending out copies of my blogs about Burger King’s offensive advertisement to friends of mine in the national media starting  last Thursday night. The first to respond was my old employer, The Washington Post.
Writer Monica Hesse spoke with NAMI Director Mike Fitzpatrick and MHA Director David Shern and then contacted Burger King.
The company’s mouthpiece tried to brush-away our criticism by claiming the ad — which featured a psychiatrist and two men in white jackets chasing a “CRAZY” and “Insane” King run amok  –was no longer being shown on national television. Hence, there was really no point in  The Post writing about it.
Under prodding by Hesse, the spokesperson acknowledged that the ad had last aired as recently as March 28th, but said there were no plans to continue the “CRAZY” King campaign.
Thankfully, Hesse didn’t fall for the company’s reasoning. Burger King’s response was a bit like saying, ‘Well, I hit my wife several times yesterday, but not today, so the fact that I’m an abusive spouse really isn’t news anymore.”
I realize some readers will think there are more important battles to fight and that the advertisement wasn’t worth all this fuss.
I disagree.
Stop and think about what happened. A major advertising agency designed a month long, million dollar ad campaign to be broadcast during March madness basketball season that demeaned persons with mental illnesses and promoted stigma — and no one in that agency or at Burger King recognized that the ad was inappropriate.
What that tells me is that we need to call attention to every one of these stigma-promoting issues until the general public realizes that making fun of persons who are sick is not acceptable, just as racist jokes are not acceptable.
Stigma keeps people from seeking help, keeps people from getting jobs, keeps people out of housing programs, and isolates them from society.
So while some may see this escapade as a little thing, I don’t — because little things can make and do make a difference.
You can read the Washington Post story here.
More than 200 persons wrote comments about the story and unfortunately, many of them, criticized NAMI and MHA for complaining about this commercial. To me, that is another sign of how far we need to go in educating the public.
Please note that Burger King did not apologize, which would have been the honorable course of action for a  company that brags about the importance of corporate responsibility.
Please remember that NAMI first contacted Burger King on March 4th to complain about this ad and the company kept running it until March 28th — the date that it always intended for the campaign to end.
A company that really cared about corporate responsibility would have stopped that campaign on March 5th.
A company that cared about corporate responsibility would have admitted what it  did was wrong.
Instead, Burger King circled the wagons and issued a ridiculous statement that was designed to sell burgers rather than to face-up to a blunder:
 The creative concepts used to bring this to life were meant to highlight the King’s unchecked enthusiasm about giving his guests a Steakhouse-quality sandwich at a great price and were not intended to reflect any group or situation.
Burger King’s statements about community concern and corporate responsibility ring hollow in my ears. 
The Empress Hotel is a gritty and outstanding documentary about life inside a shelter that provides housing to the homeless, including persons with mental illnesses and substance abuse problems.
It is as realistic and compelling of a portrayal as you will ever see, which is why I am happy to report that the Documentary Channel will be broadcasting the film beginning April 5th at 8 p.m. 
If you want to watch a promo take a look here!  
To bring “Empress Hotel” and Roberta Goodman, who runs the hotel, to campuses or your community, contact Speak Out: http://www.speakoutnow.org/
Films like this are tough to watch, but important to see.
Remember that there are ways to help persons shown in this documentary.
But those programs will only be put into place if we demand reforms.
 On a personal note, my family had a wonderful Easter weekend. Along with being able to celebrate with my parents, our oldest son Steve and his daughter, Maribella, were able to visit from New York City. Saturday was warm enough for Patti and me to pause for a moment in our new backyard hammock along with our daughter’s dog, Bella.  The WVU hat was in honor of West Virginia University, the alma mater of son, Kyle, who was excited his school was playing later that night in the Final Four.
If you enjoyed this blog, pass it along to a friend. Encourage others to fight for mental health reforms.
Thanks for reading.
About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.