Mental illness alliance denounces ‘Wonderland’

Advocates call for warnings

Two days before “Wonderland” is set to premiere on ABC, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill is up in arms over the way the new primetime drama, set in a criminal psychiatric hospital, portrays mentally ill people.

The alliance issued a statement Tuesday that criticized the show for presenting people with mental illnesses as “killers, crazies and freaks.”

In a letter to producer Peter Berg, NAMI exec director Laurie Flynn declared: “Imagine if the first network television series that featured African-American characters had been set in a welfare office.”

In one episode of the show, a man with schizophrenia who killed several people in Times Square commits suicide after being treated. The intensity of the scene, Flynn advised ABC, is “unsettling and suggestive” and could generate an increased risk of suicides in communities served by ABC affiliates.

Warnings requested

NAMI has asked ABC to: provide warnings to suicide hotlines around the country; air appropriate disclaimers before each episode; and show public service announcements and other programming “to offset the show’s negative messages.”

In addition, NAMI is requesting that ABC eliminate or edit the aforementioned suicide scene and publicly acknowledge that the show depicts only a narrow part of the world of mental illness.

On its Web site (www.nami.org), NAMI is urging people to contact ABC affiliates and send letters to ABC and Berg.

Berg was not immediately available, and ABC declined comment for this story.

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