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Wonderland Premiere Brings Call On White House To Fight Stigma In Entertainment Industry

Mental Health Organizations Broaden Protests

 

For Immediate Release, March 30, 2000
Contacts: Bob Carolla or Anne-Marie Chace 703-524-7600


Arlington, VA-As ABC Entertainment prepares tonight to premiere its new series, Wonderland, nine major mental health organizations have joined together as the Mental Health Coalition Against Stigma in Hollywood, calling on the White House to use its influence with the entertainment industry to help lead a challenge to the stigmatization of mental illness in movies and television shows.

"Wonderland is the latest in a long line of movies and television shows featuring plots and characters that connect mental illness with violence or depict people with mental illness primarily as caricatures or stereotypes-subjects of humor or derision," the coalition declared in a national call to action. "We doubt very much that ABC Entertainment would have portrayed another group in America in such a manner."

The coalition also called the show "a public health hazard," because it may discourage people from seeking or continuing needed treatment. "It does not reflect the vision of the recent White House Conference on Mental Health and the U.S. Surgeon General's report on mental health, as well as the Surgeon General's call to action for the prevention of suicides."

The coalition called specifically on the newly organized National Mental Health Awareness Campaign, the bipartisan public-private foundation which emerged from last year's White House Conference on Mental Health, to the effort against stigma in the entertainment industry and asked for the White House "to use its influence with the industry" to reinforce positive messages.

The full text of the call to action and list of signers is attached.

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Mental Health Coalition Against Stigma In Hollywood

A National Call To Action

Wonderland is the latest in a long line of movies and television programs featuring plots and characters that connect mental illness with violence or depict people with mental illness primarily as caricatures or stereotypes-subjects of humor or derision. What makes Wonderland so especially hurtful is the fact that in its current form, the show represents an opportunity lost-as the first and only television show focusing on themes involving mental illness.

Wonderland is about a big-city forensic psychiatric hospital, offering only a narrow view of our world and involving only extreme cases. We do not deny the realism of some of what the show presents, but we reject its theme, which is one of no hope. It does not accurately reflect the reality of our world. It also does not reflect the vision of the recent White House Conference on Mental Health and the U.S. Surgeon General's report on mental health, as well as the Surgeon General's call to action for the prevention of suicide.

Wonderland is about stereotyping and increasing stigma. We doubt very much that ABC Entertainment would have portrayed any other group in America in such a manner.

Wonderland also is a public health hazard. We do not call for censorship, but we warn the public that the show's frequent message that treatment does not work may hurt and create emotional turmoil in people who struggle with mental illnesses and discourage people from seeking or continuing needed treatment.

We emphasize that Wonderland is not alone in its impact. It represents an alarming pattern in the entertainment industry, broken only occasionally by a very few enlightened movies or shows. In the 1980s, Americans came to see people with developmental disabilities in a much different light when highly functional characters-"Bennie" in L.A. Law and "Corky" in Life Goes On-appeared on their television screens. Why is there no lawyer, patient's advocate, or other professional on Wonderland who also happens to successfully manage bipolar disorder (manic depression)? Why are people with schizophrenia portrayed as killers or victims and never heroes, or even simply law-abiding, productive members of the community?

We call on the newly organized National Mental Health Awareness Campaign, the bipartisan public-private foundation which emerged from last year's White House Conference on Mental Health, to lead an immediate effort to challenge the stigmatization of mental illness by the entertainment industry. We also call on the White House to use its influence with the industry, as it has with its anti-drug campaign, to reinforce the positive messages of our community.

Mental illnesses are real, common, and treatable. New treatments have revolutionized mental health care in communities. Even people with the most severe mental illnesses can and do recover. There is help. There is hope.

  • BAZELON CENTER FOR MENTAL HEALTH LAW
  • FOUNTAIN HOUSE
  • INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF PSYCHOSOCIAL REHABILITATION SERVICES
  • INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR CLUBHOUSE DEVELOPMENT
  • NATIONAL ALLIANCE FOR THE MENTALLY ILL
  • NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF COUNTY BEHAVIORAL HEALTH DIRECTORS
  • NATIONAL DEPRESSIVE AND MANIC-DEPRESSIVE ASSOCIATION
  • NATIONAL MENTAL HEALTH ASSOCIATION
  • NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF PSYCHIATRIC HEALTH SYSTEMS

NAMI Warns ABC Television: "Wonderland" Is Hazardous To Public Health

Letter from NAMI Executive Director Laurie Flynn to Vice-President for Broadcast Standards & Practices, ABC

Letter from NAMI Executive Director Laurie Flynn to Wonderland Executive Producer, Peter Berg

Focus Group Report Analyzes First Two Wonderland Episodes

 

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