July 27, 2005

A Call to Ribbons and Bracelets

A Call to Ribbons and Bracelets

An editorial by Marvin Ross

This is a call to ribbons and bracelets. As far as I can tell, no mental health advocacy group has begun a consciousness raising awareness campaign using colors and high profile spokespeople to help reduce the stigma of serious mental illness – until now.

St. Joseph's Healthcare in Hamilton Ontario (Canada) recently launched its "dignity and hope wristband" campaign with members of the highly popular Hamilton Tiger Cats of the professional Canadian Football League (owned by Bob Young of Red Hat/Linux fame). Orange wristbands with "educate", "courage", "dignity" and "hope" written on them have just gone on sale in this Southern Ontario city at the hospital, all Tiger Cat home games and at select retail outlets.

These particular words are used because "St. Joseph's believes that we need to educate the public to breakdown stigmas regarding mental illness. We need the courage to speak out and stand behind those who have a mental illness. We want mental health clients to be treated with the dignity they deserve. Lastly, we hope for a full recovery for our mental health clients."

Money raised from the $2.00 each bracelet is sold for will go towards mental health and addiction programs at the hospital. However, what is more important is that the orange bracelets often generate questions and that opens the door for those wearing them to explain about serious mental illness issues.

Many illness groups use this technique to help build awareness for their cause. Pink is for breast cancer, teal blue is for ovarian cancer, blue ribbons promote awareness about colon cancer and child abuse and, the best known, is the red ribbon for AIDs awareness. In fact, when you think about it, the only health issue that was more stigmatizing than serious mental illness was AIDS.

When it first raised its ugly head 20 plus years ago, it was associated with homosexuality that was only just barely coming out of the closet. Then, according to the website, fundraisers.com, Jeremy Irons became the first celebrity to wear the red ribbon at the Tony Awards. What is described as an act of courage on that website became contagious and many people began displaying the red ribbon.

The concept of the red ribbon was conceived by musician Paul Jabarra in early 1991 and he mailed them to those who were going to be attending the Tony Awards. Only Jeremy Irons wore his but, as we all know, it had a huge impact. Jabarra died of AIDS shortly after this. Today, the red ribbon is worn by countless numbers of people and has helped to raise awareness and to de-stigmatize.

Another highly successful campaign was conceived by Lance Armstrong - the seven-time winner of the Tour de France. Introduced on May 17, 2004 by the Lance Armstrong Foundation and funded initially by Nike, yellow bracelets bear Armstrong's motto of "LiveStrong". A number of winning athletes at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games wore these during the competitions and it is reported that the Lance Armstrong Foundation sold 300,000 bracelets in a single day. Millions of the bracelets have been sold with the proceeds going to cancer research and education.

This same type of campaign is required to help raise the awareness of serious mental illness and to help reduce stigma. Hopefully, groups in Canada and the US will join with St. Joseph’s in Hamilton and use the orange wristband and ribbons. I would love to see an organization like NAMI approach well known Hollywood stars (Brooke Shields comes to mind) and encourage them to wear an orange bracelet or ribbon at the Oscars, the Golden Globes and other high profile public events.

Mental illness strikes one in four in society and so Brooke Shields cannot be the only one to have suffered. The same goes for other high profile people in society who can help to make a difference.

More Information and Examples:

Armstrong's yellow wrist bands have become cultural phenomenon How a simple wrist-band helped raise $12 million for cancer research. Why can't the same be done for schizophrenia and other brain disorders?


I am currently wearing my orange wristband. I think it's great that St. Joseph's is doing this.
We must keep up the effort to loose the stigma associated with mental illness. It must be viewed as a disease that can be treated and not a defect of the person.
I do hope some other celebrities get involved.

Posted by: Catherine at August 2, 2005 11:59 AM

I would love to get my hands on some of those orange bracelets!!!!! I would give them to the people in my family and those close to me that have always supported me through my life! My father and I are becoming so much closer in my adult life because we share the same illness. We need to let the world know that people with "mental" illness are ill in our bodies,and it's not something we can fix with our minds. And the last thing I have to say is that I have lost all respect for Tom Cruise-but I feel sorry for him because he's the one who is really sick!!

Posted by: Jill Ann at August 3, 2005 07:12 PM

Hey! I was wondering where I could get a hold of these wristbands? I saw a woman at my gym wearing one. I'd like to give a plethora of them to people I know! Can they be found at either of the St.Joseph locations in Hamilton? I attend therapy there weekly and haven't seen anything like it?

Posted by: mina at August 5, 2005 05:37 PM

How do i get one of the bracelets. i've been dealing with SI for about 8 years but i think the bracelets are a good idea.

Posted by: Rockkel at August 11, 2005 05:04 PM

I've been trying to find somewhere that makes Schizophrenia Awareness wristbands for so long. I contacted a company that asked for people to let them know of any illnesses/charities that they forgot, but they need to know what color to use. Does anyone know? These wristbands mentioned above were orange, right? Isn't orange for self-injury? I was thinking maybe red or blue, to represent the pain and confusion of the illness. I don't know. I guess it doesn't matter what the color is, as long as we know what it's representing. Any ideas? Please respond. :-)

Posted by: kym at August 12, 2005 02:25 PM

My son Christopher is 22 years old and suffering with mental illness for 10 years.

Posted by: Caterina at August 22, 2005 09:05 PM

Where can I get one of these bracelets????

Posted by: Alicia at October 9, 2005 08:36 PM

I would like to purchase those bracelets. Several people I know have been affected by mental illness and I would like to increase the awareness.

Posted by: Anne at November 30, 2005 07:23 AM

I just ordered some orange bracelets to pass out to workers at the psychiatric hospital I am employed at. It is so important for the world to realize that mental illnesses can be a part of anybody's life and that many of the people that have them have quite successful lives.

Posted by: Thea at February 2, 2006 02:15 PM

I have schizophrenia and just wanted to know if the bracelet is availablw in the states.

Posted by: Richard at February 15, 2006 12:57 PM

I just read "Flying over the cuckoonest". It can be part of anybody's life.

Posted by: Helen charms at April 4, 2006 03:23 PM

where can I buy one of those bracelets?

Posted by: Nicole at March 16, 2007 02:11 PM

These wristbands are such a good idea. I have just spent days searching the internet for something like it...when i fell across this article. I know orange has been used for self-injury awareness in the past, and green has been used for mental illness, more specifically childhood depression and bipolar disorder. Yellow has been used for suicide prevention, and silver is for the "campaign for the brain" that includes all brain diseases. Hope that helps the people who had color questions.
I hope we can get wristbands more widespread and raise awareness though....it's soo needed.

Posted by: Casey at April 18, 2007 04:15 AM

I found this. But I think we need a universal color. I have no idea if orange is the universal color or if it is just a local color.


Posted by: Todd at May 1, 2007 06:52 PM

I would love some of the wristband I have4 in my famliy with the illness I think it a brillent idea.It a treble sickness My brother's and sister are lovely people would not hurt a fly. Regards Helena Ireland

Posted by: Helena Kennedy at November 6, 2007 11:24 AM

I just wanted to say to schizophrenia.com if it was wrong I posted the sites in the room I am so very sorry. I wanted to tell you that you could have them if you wanted to do the Bracelets. They are empty, I wasn't advertising. I did try and email you but didn't get a response.I am in the Mental Health Foundation.A person/patient who just wants to help.If you want me to never ask again I promise I won't.I am kind of freaked I am going to lose my sites for posting them.I can even give you my home phone number so you know i'm sincere.Again I am sorry if I wasn't suposed to post them.I just don't have alot of money and those sites are my dream to help.Just please tell me if I did something wrong.I swear I will never post them again.

Posted by: James Anthony Lombardo at November 9, 2007 04:19 AM

To whoever read all of what I wrote I am very happy that you did. Sorry about the last message though.I supose it's the point I am trying to get a life going again but I seem to not have the basic skills I used to.I do though want you all to know I care so much.It's a shame this disease has the part that noone can see and I can't fix. Even when a person is trying to do something so good, they can't stop their head for a moment to let them enjoy it. Schizofriendia is not that part of me. People I think at times may feel I Obcess over that word.It isn't just a word.It is my life.Maybe some may think it's Silly but anyone who was ever in a Mental Hospital can tell you. The smallest things matter.Even the most simplistic picture you draw and a visitor passing by smiles.It momentarily opens the cement walls and you feel free.If I could get out of this house and have my old life back. Teaching,Playing in a band,Going to School.I would have changed one thing about the Schizofriendia Bracelets. I would have already had them made.

Posted by: James at November 9, 2007 05:09 AM


Schizofriendia is a word that I made up today.
Covered in tears as they took me away.
I never quite new when I could go home.
They checked for sharp objects.
Into a dark room I was thrown.
I screamed through the night.
While I covered my scars.
I Cried out your name.
Watched by security guards.
They filled me with drugs.
And I was so scared.
I started shaking so bad.
But not one of them cared.
I asked for a pencil.
And some paper to write.
I drew a friend just to talk to.
But then the paper went white.
Where did you go to my friend on the pad.
The friend I created was all that I had.
Schizofriendia is a word that I made up today.
I added the friend while alone I must stay.

James A. Lombardo
Copyright ©2007  James  A. Lombardo

Posted by: James Anthony Lombardo at November 9, 2007 10:31 PM

Hey everyone it is really happening ! I have the name Schizofriendia legally documented along with it's sole meaning FRIEND ! That way for all time no bottom feeders will ever be able to self profit from this name! With the meaning of true friends and the FRIEND Bracelets are on their way ! I have a fantastic company making the first batch ! Stigma will come to a hault ! All money is going to the hungry and other great causes. I am only the sole designer and creator. I am NOT selling these personally. I will NOT be selling these myself. I am giving away all of the first Batch and keeping four for myself. I am working on trying to get the Mental Health G.D.M.H.A. I go to involved as well as the Intervention Center and other great places! Hopefully they will take charge. I will never see a dime. That is the way it always will be. Note: I am not selling these. I am just the creator.I will keep you posted in 2008 when they should be circulating pretty well. Keep your eyes open for these. The will be three diferent designs,Red,Red and Black,Black and Purple.Peace and keep the faith. Always A FRIEND. James Anthony Lombardo
SchizoFRIENDia Creator and very Proud of it:).

I have had Schizophrenia since 1991. I think this word is very helpful in describing the way that friendship and the support of a loving family can help us in climbing over some pretty tough obstacles. Schizofriendia simply means you always have a friend out there. God bless you all. Sincerely James

Schizofriendia : Schizo (mind) friend (body) ia (is accepted). An individual who has been diagnosed with the brain disease Schizophrenia. One who has found or is searching for a friend in a world that accepts them for who they are and not because they have Schizophrenia.

Posted by: James A. Lombardo at November 13, 2007 02:45 AM

I think you are amazing and have amazing talent. I love your poem. Please check out my mom's book, my brother has schizofrenia and we love him very much.

Posted by: Christy Snyder at June 5, 2008 07:53 PM

I am a Psychiatric Nurse in Fiji and we have alot of problems with stigma and our patients. Lately we have come up with a plan to create awareness and it is called COMBI communication for behavioral impact. we would appreciate any help that we can get as our plan is to fight stigma by creating awareness.

Posted by: christine at June 17, 2008 02:56 AM

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