15 National Groups Demand ABC Warn Viewers

Mental Health Coalition Fears Impact Of Wonderland Suicide Scene

Apr 04 2000

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)