Nickelodeon Criticized for Stigmatizing Stereotype

You might remember that I created an award called the Stupidity Award for Promoting Prejudice a while back and gave the first to an NBC sports writer who didn’t see anything wrong with a high school dance team in Waunakee, Wisconsin wearing straight jackets with the word PSYCHO WARD printed on them as they performed in a state competition.   

I was tipped off to that school’s insensitive, stigma-promoting  performance by a fellow mental health blogger, Chrisa Hickey, who posts her thoughts at The Mindstorm: Raising a Mentally Ill Child.

Chrisa sent me an email about a new example of stigma in the media. From reading her note, it sounds as if another SAPP award is due.

Dear Pete

  I wanted to bring to your attention the season premiere of Nickelodeon TV show, iCarly, which aired Saturday, August 13. The episode was entitled, “iLost My Mind,” and featured one of the main characters, Samantha, a teenager who has checked herself into a “mental institution” because she felt she must be crazy to like a boy who she’d previously had  hated. Before the episode aired, Susan Resko, the Executive Director of the Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation, wrote a letter to the VP of programming at Nickelodeon, and posted CABF’s disappointment at the premise of the show on their blog.

After talking with Susan and after watching the show, my feeling was that the characters and story line wasn’t particularly offensive. What WAS offensive was the set and the extras.
The set was, mainly, a large room representing a day room in a psychiatric hospital. The room was full of adult patients milling around in states of what I can only describe as stereotypical lunacy – a grown man rocking a baby doll, a woman shuffling around in a bathrobe, clutching a steering wheel, a man rubbing his face repeatedly with as sponge, a man facing a wall, banging on it with his head and hands, and Jim Parsons, star of The Big Bang Theory, as, I guess, someone with schizophrenia, with wild delusions, laughing manically at a TV showing only static, and telling the teen characters to kick him because his pants were made of some type of advanced polymer. There wasn’t a doctor character to be found, but several uniformed security guards were seen in two different scenes, implying that they were dangerous. 
On top of this, the walls and doors were caked with filth. Every door and wall was grimy and grungy. The only windows faced a brick wall, and a prominently placed garbage can was overflowing. It was like a candy-coated teenage version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. 
I did a live blog chat after the show which you can see here. 
Dozens of parents expressed their disappointment on the iCarly Facebook page and on iCarly creator’s blog at Some of the comments remain, but many were removed, until we posted that he was removing them, ironically. I also called the Parents Television Council and they are looking at the episode to determine if they want to make an official statement.
 Nickelodeon is watched by millions of children. The network should know better than to introduce stereotypes and promote stigma against persons with mental disorders.
Shame on them and the show.
About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.


  1. okay, this breaks my brain when it comes to NAMI…

    NAMI considers a segment on a television show important enough to complain about but says nothing about real students really getting tortured at the Judge Rotenberg Center. it says nothing about Dr. Joseph Biederman making more than $1.6 million from drug companies for promoting their message, and keeping his practice after he got found out.


  2. Shame on you! Stigma is a serious issue, instead of looking at it from your point of view, think of others. You probably don’t have ODD like me so you don’t understand how offensive it can be.