The debate over the name of the 51FIFTY energy drink and whether it’s offensive to people with mental health issues has taken an unusual twist.
Each side has started a campaign to raise awareness for a cause that the other side cares about.
The Livingston-based energy drink landed in the spotlight two weeks ago when Save Mart said it was pulling the drink from its shelves in response to pressure from mental health advocates, several of them from Fresno.
The advocates said the drink’s name and the “Live The Madness” slogan printed on the can contribute to the stigma faced by people dealing with mental illness.
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Police and first responders use the term 5150 in situations when a person “as a result of a mental health disorder is a danger to others, or to himself or herself or gravely disabled.”
Carlos Vieira, 51FIFTY CEO, refuses to change the name. According to the drink’s website the name represents “a person who never quits, meets all challenges head on, doesn’t feel fear, pushes the limit and is crazy enough to chase his or her dream.”
The 51FIFTY brand and the Carlos Vieira Foundation associated with it – which has raised money for autism since before the drink was created – is starting a Race to End the Stigma of mental illness campaign.
In turn, the mental health advocates in Fresno have started American Badass, an awareness campaign that covers a variety of conditions, including autism.
A post on the Carlos Vieira Foundation’s Facebook page explains the Race to End the Stigma aims to “educate the public about mental illness and dispel some of the myths surrounding the topic.” The campaign will support organizations in the mental health field through fundraising and outreach programs such as school speakers.
The campaign is in its infant stages and plans to first meet with mental health professionals, Vieira notes.
Though some might dismiss the campaign as a public relations move, Eve Hinson, who was one of the people at the forefront of the effort to get the 51FIFTY name changed, doesn’t feel that way.
She says she supports the End the Stigma campaign and the way it associates the drink with a movement.
“It’s so very needed,” she says. “It’s another strong voice in the community.”
She said she still wishes Vieira would drop the “Live The Madness” slogan.
In the meantime, Hinson and another board member of the Fresno chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Rhonda Jane Wirzberger, have launched their own campaign, American Badass at americanbadassadvocates.org.
It’s a social media-based campaign advocating for a variety of people with Tourette Syndrome, mental conditions and autism – the last of which is the focus of the Carlos Vieira Foundation.
“It’s a movement for inclusion and acceptance,” Hinson says.
The people active in the movement are people who have those syndromes or disorders, notes Hinson, who has Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism.
People involved will share their stories, which Hinson said will give hope to younger people growing up in the same situation.
“That’s our goal, to share stories,” she said. “That’s the one thing that breaks stigma the most is when we share stories. People can relate.”
In the weeks since Save Mart stopped selling 51FIFTY, many people have gotten vocal about their support for the drink and foundation.
They have expressed their support on the foundation’s Facebook page, with some vowing not to shop at Save Mart.
In response to the Stop Promoting Mental Illness petition at Change.org spearheaded by Hinson, supporters of 51FIFTY have started their own petition on the site. More than 2,000 people have signed the petition urging Save Mart to keep the drink on its shelves.