Press Releases

"Stark Raving Mad" TV Producer Reassures Mental Health Community

NAMI Stigmabusters Will Remain Vigilant

Sep 17 1999

Arlington, VA. - Concern and speculation have circulated throughout the nation's mental health community about the new NBC television show, Stark Raving Mad, scheduled to premiere Thursday, September 23rd. But Steven Levitan, the show's executive producer, has promised the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) there is no cause for alarm.

"Stark Raving Mad has no intention of portraying mentally ill characters in a negative light," Levitan said. "In fact, the show doesn't portray characters with mental illness at all. Our lead characters are not mentally ill, but merely eccentric, and their eccentricities are not reflections of any mental illness. I am sure you will recognize this when you see the actual series."

"The last thing America needs is any more stereotyped portrayals of persons with mental illness," said NAMI Executive Director Laurie Flynn. "Stereotypes promote stigma, and stigma prevents people from seeking treatment. Lack of treatment ends tragically in broken lives or suicide. We appreciate Mr. Levitan's responsiveness to our concerns and his assurances about the nature of the show."

Although the title Stark Raving Mad may pose a certain "shock" connotation, it is actually a play on the lead character's name-Ian Stark. NAMI also noted that another Levitan television show, Just Shoot Me, which is entering its fourth season on NBC, only involves photographers and photo shoots for a women's magazine.

"We will be watching," Flynn said. "We hope all producers and writers in the entertainment industry will follow the lead of the recent White House Conference on Mental Health in seeking to eliminate stigma from American popular culture and to be responsible in dealing with characters or themes that involve mental illnesses."

Earlier this month, as part of a national grassroots campaign focused on advertising and marketing, NAMI "Stigmabusters" succeeded in convincing Nestle USA to discontinue three candies and cartoon characters-Psycho Sam, Weird Wally and Loony Jerry-that stereotyped mental illness.