Last Saturday was the season premiere of iCarly, one of the most popular shows on Nickelodeon. If you didn’t see it, it was called, “iLost My Mind,” and the story was about one character, Samantha, checking herself into Troubled Waters Mental Institution because she found herself attracted to a boy she hates. I watched the show because my daughter likes iCarly, and I wanted to see what they thought was acceptable to show tweens and teens about the experience in a psychiatric facility.
I didn’t see much offensive about the story line. It was goofy and silly as iCarly tends to be. What really made my blood run cold was the set and the extras populating said “mental institution”. For starters, every wall and door was covered in dark, grimy looking streaks, smudges and stains – around doorknobs, along door and window frames, and above an overflowing trash can. There wasn’t a doctor to be seen anywhere in any scene, but two scenes featured a half dozen uniformed security guards keeping the patients in line. And the patients were spot-on stereotypes of raving lunatics – a grown man rocking a baby doll, another man compulsively rubbing his face with a sponge, another pressed face first against a wall, banging on it, and a delusional patient who thought he was from the future, wore pants made from a damage proof polymer, and sat alternately laughing maniacally and screaming in terror at a TV showing nothing but static.
I cringe, wondering what tweeners who watched that think about psychiatric treatment. If they ever experience depression, will they tell anyone, or will they fear the dirty room full of strange adults and security guards? Will parents who saw it shy away at getting a child treatment, thinking the facility will be full of adults acting bizarrely? And what was the point of creating that backdrop? It didn’t further the story line. Stereotypes like these keep stigma alive and well, and keep 60% of teens that need mental health care from getting it. I followed Susan Resko of Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation’s lead and wrote a letter to Nickelodeon’s parent company, Viacom. It’s too late to change this episode of iCarly, but hopefully, they’ll give some thought to the images they promote in the future.
The address for Nickelodeon is
New York, NY 10019
For Viacom, their parent company, it’s
New York, New York 10036
Or you can use their web form to send an email : http://www.viacom.com/contact/Pages/default.aspx