NAMI StigmaBuster Alert
Desperate Housewives: A Thanksgiving Turkey
ABC's Desperate Housewives is currently running a plotline in which a mysterious
stranger, "Dave Williams" (played by Neal McDonough), moves into the neighborhood,
after marrying one of the characters.
Another character learns that Dave has been released from a "center for the
criminally insane." His psychiatrist arrives to confront him. Dave kills the
psychiatrist and sets a fire in a nightclub to cover up the crime. He rescues others
from the fire and is seen as a hero.
It's hard to take Desperate Housewives seriously. It's a cross between a soap opera
and a satire. But it's also an award-winning show that has one of the highest
ratings on television. It makes an impression. In this case, it reinforces the
stereotype that links mental illness to violence.
StigmaBusters has received several complaints. One member notes that "criminally
insane" by itself is a stigmatizing term. Many people with mental illnesses who
encounter the criminal justice system do not become repeat offenders-provided they
are able participate in jail diversion programs and get treatment. The goal is to
return people into the community, which Desperate Housewives undermines through its
Please browse the Desperate Housewives Web site to review summaries of recent
episodes (http://abc.go.com/primetime/desperate/index?pn=recap#t=131881) and the
offensive plotline. Please contact the ABC network and the show's producers to make
the following points:
* The Desperate Housewives plot involving Dave Williams (Neal McDonough) and its
reference to "the criminally insane" perpetuates the stigmatizing, inaccurate
stereotype that links people with mental illnesses to violence.
* The U.S. Surgeon General has noted that the overall contribution of mental
disorders to the total level of violence in the country is "exceptionally small"
and that stigma is one of the greatest barriers to people getting help when they
* Please use your position to help eliminate stigma. Develop a character and plot
that defies stereotypes, Have a person with mental illness be a genuine hero or
* Share a personal story-about how stigma has affected you or one of hope and
ABC Primetime: Send Comments
Audience Relations ABC, Inc.
500 South. Buena Vista Street
Burbank, CA 91521
Mr. Marc Cherry
Mr. Bob Daily
Producer & Writer
Mr. David Grossman
Producer & Director
500 South Buena Vista
Burbank, CA 91521
(888) 777-1000 (Touchstone switchboard)
Special Offer: Out of the Shadow
Filmmaker Susan Smiley has made a special offer
for every purchase of a home video or DVD of her award-winning PBS documentary, Out
of the Shadow. Between now and December 31, she will donate 20% of the purchase
price to NAMI. The offer is for a close-out sale of the DVD for $18.00. The video
for home use sells for $27.00.
The film is the story of Millie Smiley, Susan's mother, who while living with
schizophrenia, traveled through 17 psychiatric wards, eight apartments, three
boarding houses, and countless motels. It is also the story of her family and what
Susan has called the "travesties of our public health system, which so poorly cared
for my mother. Decades of her life were wasted." It is an inspiring film, but not
sugar-coated. At the end, Millie is able to work for the first time in 25 years. "It
is a heart-felt and eye-opening film that needs to be seen by everyone, in order to
effect change," says NAMI medical director Ken Duckworth.
Out of the Inbox