A letter to NBC – Chicago Med: The Parent Trap

As leaders of a coalition of U.S. nonprofit organizations, we share a common mission of raising awareness about post-infectious autoimmune encephalopathies such as Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcus (PANDAS) and Pediatric Acute-Onset Neuropsychiatric Disorder (PANS). Additionally, we work to increase access to treatment through provider education and expanded insurance coverage, as well as supporting research into the cutting-edge field of neuroimmunology. The longest standing group among us is PANDAS Network, a national non-profit with 501(c)3 status, which the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has designated a national partner. In this role, PANDAS Network helps disseminate information about PANDAS to diverse populations and, important to the circumstances which led to this letter, “helps to assure that science-based information about mental illness and mental health have broad reach throughout states and local communities.”
Chicago Med: The Parent Trap
Hundreds – if not thousands – of families have written to or contacted you via social media in response to the episode (S3017 “The Parent Trap”) of Chicago Med written by Jeff Drayer and aired on April 26, 2018. In addition, a Change.org petition responding to the episode has collected nearly 6,000 signatures and is attached here.
The episode depicted and poorly characterized a PANDAS case. The storyline cast parents as histrionic and fabricators of truth. For the thousands of families who have been affected by these disorders, this story was a damaging affront that perpetuates the myth that mental illness is a character weakness. Parents who saw the episode were horrified, especially those who watched with their older children who have PANS/ PANDAS or have siblings with PANS/PANDAS. In addition to insulting a segment of your viewers, this episode was a disservice to the public. We understand this is a dramatic television series, but in this case, your writers missed a key opportunity to reflect current science regarding this disorder and to educate your millions of viewers about a disorder that – if it has not already – WILL touch their families or their communities.