Press Releases

NAMI Calls "Beverly Hills 90210" Plot Grossly Irresponsible

Television Show to Eliminate Character Through Unrealistic Depiction of Schizophrenia Treatment Options

Feb 17 1999

Arlington, VA - The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) today criticized FOX TV and the producers of the television show, "Beverly Hills 90210," for broadcasting "misinformation" about treatment options available for schizophrenia in a manner that is "grossly irresponsible" and "does a tragic disservice to many of the shows most devoted fans," who are in the same age group (i.e., late teen and twenties) as that in which the brain disorder typically first emerges.

"Unrealistic portrayal of treatment options will sow despair instead of hope, and reinforce stigma instead of knowledge and understanding," warned NAMI Executive Director Laurie M. Flynn in a letter to FOX Television and Spelling Television, the show's producer.

In Wednesday night's episode of the show (Feb. 17, 8:00 p.m. EST), according to advance promotion: "Matt is devastated to learn that the medicine that keeps Lauren sane is killing her. Together, they must decide if she will stay on the deadly medicine or return to the terror of mental illness."

FOX TV also has advised that the character, Lauren, will stop taking her medication and suffer a relapse. She will not be switched to any other medication and ultimately will be phased out of the show.

"NAMI's concern is with the message that the intended plot line will send," Flynn explained. "In reality, a young woman who suffers from schizophrenia has alternative treatment options. The choices are broader than death from a particular medication (which is a rarity) or a return to the "terrors of mental illness". Medications can be switched. Most importantly, the current treatment success rate is 60 percent-higher than the rate for heart disease-with medical research constantly providing new, effective treatment options."