Nickelodeon's "iCarly" Stigmatizes Mental Illness
written by Susan Resko on Thursday, August 11, 2011 at 5:36pm
The August 13, 2011 Nickelodeon ("Nick") episode of the popular adolescent show, iCarly, is entitled "I Lost My Mind". The character Sam kisses a boy she hates, so she assumes she has "lost her mind" and checks herself into a "mental hospital." While there, she "finger-paints." Her friends try to "break her out." The promo suggests their plan is "crazy" and "insane."
This characterization is beyond the pale, and stigmatizes adolescent psychiatric hospitalization. Such callous rendering would never be given to treatments for other life threatening illnesses such as cancer or AIDS.
I have urged Nick to pull the episode, AND do an episode that shows the kids learning that psychiatric hospitalization is no laughing matter. Words and phrases like, “I lost my mind,” or “mental hospital” are not cool. This rendering will stigmatize kids seeking needed care, causing greater suffering and potentially even deaths. Nick's audience is the generation that can end stigma, if helped to understand! The very responsible 90210 episodes on bipolar are a great example of what can be done.
Jokes about psychiatric hospitalization went the way of calling a child with Down Syndrome the “R word.” They are offensive and tactless. In fact, suicide is the third leading cause of death among teens and young adults. A 2010 SAMHSA study found nearly 1 in 10 youths between the ages of 12 and 17 experienced major depression in a year—nearly 2 million youths. Fewer than 4 in 10 of these youths received treatment. These kids are Nick's and iCarly's audience. Does Nick think this is funny?
Our 2009 nationwide survey shows that over 60% of the children of respondents have been hospitalized at least once and nearly 40% have had multiple hospitalizations. CABF represents over 37,000 families and receives 600,000 visits to our website each year. These families find "the joke" no laughing matter.
If you find this characterization offensive, I urge you to contact the producers at Nickelodeon and share your thoughts. The only way we end this type of objectionable programming for our children is to voice our opinions (and click away from Nick’s iCarly.)
Send your complaints to Viacom, the parent company of Nick.