Addressing Mental Health Stigma in The Daily Targum

Psychodyssey today came across this cartoon in The Daily Targum, the student newspaper of Rutgers University in New Jersey. Psychodyssey’s founder, Tom Pyle, responded in this letter to the Targum’s editor:

Sent: Wednesday, October 03, 2012 11:06 PM
Subject: Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

On page 11 of its October 3 issue, the Daily Targum carried a cartoon called “Pop Culture Shock Therapy” by Doug Bratton. Titled “Fatal Attraction the Musical!”, the cartoon depicts a minstrel man onstage pointing at a crudely drawn female dancer with fishnet stockings, top hat, and frizzy hair—but also with a deranged expression while brandishing a menacingly large carving knife. The pointing man parodies Carly Rae Jespen’s recent hit song by singing “Hey, I just met you—And you are crazy! So lose my number—Don’t call me, baby!” Note the “you are crazy!”

As an advisory board member of the Rutgers  ACT Certificate Program of the School of Social Work and the Center for Alcohol Studies and a Rutgers parent of a loved one with a psychiatric disability, I am distressed by this insensitive, stigmatizing cartoon. Its callous depiction of a person with mental illness (the dancer) as wildly deranged (the face) and violent (the knife) does a serious disservice to a whole class of people. By its crude stereotyping, it  brings harm to all individuals with psychiatric disabilities, the vast majority of whom (like the rest of us) strive to lead regular lives the best they can—but also must do so uniquely against indescribable challenges, and yet still can thrive and succeed. The cartoon’s degrading depiction of mental illness seems akin to racist, sexist, or homophonic cartoons that justly warrant total condemnation and no place in a first-class college newspaper. Our friends and loved ones with psychiatric disabilities deserve better. I’m sure the Targum can do better.


Thomas H. Pyle

Princeton, NJ


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