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Why Top Mental Health Groups Are Trying to Stop This 'Modern Family' Episode

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Some of the biggest mental health organizations are putting pressure on ABC-TV to drop a Halloween episode of “Modern Family,” scheduled to re-air this Wednesday. Advocates are arguing it stigmatizes people with mental illness.

In the episode, called “AwesomeLand,” one of the main characters, Claire, transforms her home into a “scary inane asylum.” Her daughter, Alex, is strapped into a hospital bed while her son, Luke, wears a straightjacket. When her oldest daughter, Haley, comes out in her “sexy” hospital gown, she says, “Sexy people go crazy too, you know. Read a ‘People’ magazine.”

Mental illness is not a joke. Re-airing an episode that uses an ‘insane asylum’ theme and stereotypes of people living with mental illness as a vehicle for humor is a cruel Halloween trick on the 1 in 5 Americans who experience mental health problems in any given year,” reads a letter addressed to Paul Lee, President of ABC Entertainment Group.

source: NAMICommunicate

The letter has been signed by the American Psychiatric Association, the Bazelon Center on Mental Health Law, the Depression and Bipolar Support AllianceMental Health America, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, Inc.

“The episode sends a message that ABC does not consider people living with mental illness to truly be part of its modern family or vision,” Mary Giliberti, executive director of the NAMI, said in a statement released by the organization this week. “It is a profound disappointment that a show that has been applauded for inclusivity now chooses to dismiss concerns from part of the disability community.”

Deborah Geesling, whose son has schizoaffective disorder, told The Mighty in an email she finds the episode “appalling.”

“The only thing that rivals the pain of watching our adult son succumb to the devastating effects of a serious mental illness has been the rude awakening to a system of care that is abysmal,” she said. “The state of our mental illness system still remains mostly unknown to the majority of our country. For a popular television network to air a show that intensifies the pain and ignorance… I can hardly find the words to express my anger.”

Others have taken to Twitter using the hashtag #unmodernfamily to speak out against the episode.

NAMI is encouraging viewers who want to join the conversation to use the hashtag #unmodernfamily, and reach out to ABC here.

Originally published: October 28, 2015
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