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15 National Groups Demand ABC Warn Viewers

Mental Health Coalition Fears Impact of Wonderland Suicide Scene

For Immediate Release, April 4, 2000
Contacts: Bob Carolla or Anne-Marie Chace 703-524-7600


Arlington, VA -- The Mental Health Coalition Against Stigma in Hollywood today called on ABC to warn Wonderland viewers about a graphic suicide scene in Thursday (April 6th) night's episode. During the episode, a patient is ordered by a judge to be medicated and then, while recovering, commits suicide. Particularly disturbing, reports the Coalition, is the patient's suicide note, read during the closing scenes, that "the medicine you gave me really works...I'm taking care of myself."

"The message of this disturbing conclusion is one of despair that flows directly from the patient's improved mental condition," said Laurie Flynn, executive director of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI). "More than the violence that precedes it, the intensity of the suicide scene is cause for major concern. It is unsettling and could be suggestive to anyone who has-or is-struggling with mental illness."

In a statement sent to Christine Hikawa, ABC's vice president for broadcast standards and practices, the Coalition pointed to strong evidence that media depictions of suicide generate increased risks for suicide. The Coalition asked ABC to:

  • Include an appropriate warning and disclaimer at the beginning of the episode that would state, "Wonderland presents only a partial view of mental illness. Although the show contains violence, people with treated mental illness are no more violent than the general population. Some viewers may find scenes disturbing. Viewers who have suicidal thoughts should call local crisis hotlines or seek immediate professional help."

  • Urge ABC affiliates to "crawl" local suicide hotline numbers during the episode.

In issuing the statement, the Coalition also applauded WLNE-ABC 6 in Providence, Rhode Island, for setting a precedent of responsibility by airing the toll-free number of the Samaritans, a suicide-crisis line, during last week's episode that presented a suicide tutorial by one staff psychiatrist counseling a patient who had attempted suicide.

In his recent Call to Action to Prevent Suicide, U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher specifically took aim at the entertainment and media industries to represent suicide in a responsible fashion. He called for "a public/private collaboration with the media to assure that entertainment and news coverage represent balanced and informed portrayals of suicide and its associated risk factors including mental illness and substance abuse disorders and approaches to prevention and treatment."

Mental Health Coalition Against Stigma In Hollywood

AMERICAN ASSOCIATION FOR SOCIAL PSYCHIATRY

AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION

ASSERTIVE COMMUNITY TREATMENT ASSOCIATION

ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY

AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF COMMUNITY PSYCHIATRISTS

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 COUNCIL FOR COMMUNITY BEHAVIORAL HEALTHCARE

NATIONAL DEPRESSIVE AND MANIC-DEPRESSIVE ASSOCIATION

NATIONAL MENTAL HEALTH ASSOCIATION

NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF PSYCHIATRIC HEALTH SYSTEMS

GERALD AND ELSIE WEYRAUCH
FOUNDERS, SUICIDE PREVENTION ADVOCACY NETWORK (SPANUSA)

 


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