Pavilion: Voices of Plurality in Action



















Pavilion is a proactive educational network providing news, information services and resources for and about multiple personality.


Thank you Wicks

Guidelines - Promoting Accuracy In Depictions
of Multiple Personality

Adapted from guidelines provided by the National Stigma Clearinghouse


* Phone calls, letters, and press releases are all good ways to initiate interest in a story.

* Keep the story warm by supplying developing information by fax or mail.

* Expect to wait; the idea may need to incubate.

* Always return a reporter's phone call promptly, if only to say you can't talk until later. Supply additional names and phone numbers, after getting permission, to increase the reporter's options and add depth to the story.


If you initiated the story, you already have a clear idea of what is most important. When planning how to present these important points, keep in mind that a general audience is apt to be uninformed about multiple personality. Aim for clarity, repetition, and emotional appeal.

Use facts. Since no formal research has been done on healthy multiplicity, cite the anecdotal evidence of your own and your friends' experiences.

If a journalist approaches you for an interview, find out the reason for the story. Then decide upon your message points accordingly.

Broaden the story by suggesting the names of colleagues to the reporter.


  • Decide upon 2 or 3 key points.
  • Work on boiling down each point to a key sentence.
  • Practice several different ways to state the points.
  • Decide what anecdotes, facts, and figures you will use to amplify your points.
  • Try trimming your points to 15 or 20-second "soundbites."
  • In most cases, you can ask that a fumbled answer be retaped. Just say, Can we do that again?
  • Restate your key points as often as you can. Use examples that relate to the audience. Appeal to the senses of the listeners by painting a picture in their minds.



The tips that follow will give you a sense of what reporters need when they turn to you for an interview. With practice, you can help them deliver your message with clarity.

  • Prepare for the interview. Make sure the interviewer has background information several hours before, or on the day before the appointment.
  • Know the purpose of the story for which you are being interviewed.
  • Know where and when the story will appear.
  • Correct or amplify any statement you make, during the interview or shortly after.
  • Abstain from answering questions outside your expertise.
  • Do not release private information.
  • Look your best and sound your best.


REPEAT your message points. Weave them throughout the interview.

RELATE your message points to your audience's experiences by using stories, examples, facts and figures.

EVOKE empathy by using visual images and words that arouse emotion.

EMPHASIZE the "more alike than different" view: multiples are human beings.


Phone calls, letters, and faxes are the simplest, most direct, and most frequent contacts that advocates are likely to have with the media. These are "smoking gun" encounters -- used to correct inaccuracies, to protest negative stereotyping, and to end exploitative advertising or entertainment.

Evidence in hand, a single letter or phone call to the people responsible explaining the harm done is often all that is needed. The chances are good that a "smoking gun" encounter will open doors to further dialogue. You may be surprised at the number of potential allies who work in the media.

And let's get one of these:

"For a free booklet to assist letter writers, order "Challenging Stereotypes: An Action Guide," from the Center for Mental Health Services. Call toll free 1-800-789-2647, publication SMA 01-3513." We can adapt this for use in PAVILION activity.


The mass media wield a powerful influence over public opinion. This is particularly true for mental illnesses, since the public is sadly lacking in knowledge needed to discern fact from fiction.

Like members of the public, media professionals may have limited knowledge of mental illnesses. Stereotypes become self-perpetuating unless they are replaced by clear, credible alternatives. If mental health activists fail to speak out, we resign ourselves to the status quo.

Seek to build good relationships with journalists and other key professionals by being informative and reliable. Let members of the media know you respect their intention to be fair and accurate.


I am going to adapt this, since multiplicity is not a mental illness but is constantly portrayed as one. Here we go.

Copyright 2001, Entertainment Industries Council, Inc. All rights reserved.

Depiction Suggestion 1

Try to provide accurate information about multiple personalities.

Multiples may go unrecognised to themeselves, as well as to those around them, because multiples are practically invisible on television except for the limited stereotypes. On television, healthy, non-disordered multiplicity simply doesn't exist. The media's role in getting the word out about multiplicity and what it really is as opposed to the stereotypes would be especially helpful because the same stigma that blankets this important problem also impedes people's access to information about it. The media can be a terrific vehicle for dispelling myths while at the same time telling compelling stories.

According to a national survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation in 1998, health care providers and the media, particularly television, generally top people's list of information sources for health-related information. Dr. Neal Baer, former Executive Producer of ER and now Executive Producer of Law & Order: SVU, conducted a survey along with other researchers (published in Health Affairs, February 2001) to determine the impact of the entertainment media on specific health-related issues. Their findings showed that audience awareness substantially increased, at least in the short-term, about issues presented (though without repetition, the awareness level was not sustained over time).

The "Some Interesting Facts" section on the Entertainment Industries Council website (, along with the organization resource list provided, give some useful information that, when integrated into scripts, can not only enhance the authenticity of the story line, but provide viewers with what may be vital information.

Depiction Suggestion No. 2

Try to avoid connecting multiple personality with violence by emphasizing the "killer personality."

There's been an unfortunate and damaging link between multiplicity and violent behavior both on screen and in the public's mind. Even if multiplicity were a mental illness, several studies have shown that, as a whole, people with mental disorders are no more dangerous than the general population.

Depiction Suggestion No. 3

Try exploring the difficulties multiples face in terms of prejudice and stereotyping and how both impede the establishment of healthy systems.

When it comes to multiplicity, the response of others may be as difficult to cope with as the condition itself. Coming out as multiple often leads to prejudice and fear. A multiple may internalize these negative reactions and feel shame and embarrassment.

Thanks to both media and the mental health industry, multiples are regarded by the general population with fear, as threatening "mentally ill" people, or simply as attention-getting fakers. People who do believe multiplicity exists see it as a mental illness, and most people do not want to be around anyone who is mentally ill.

Depiction Suggestion No. 4

Consider showing likeable main characters who are multiple having a cooperative system and getting along well in life. Having a TV or movie character the public identifies with provides a positive role model that others can emulate.

Showing a likeable character experiencing happiness and functioning normally impresses upon viewers that the line between so-called normalcy and multiplicity is blurrier than many people think. "More alike than different."

Depiction Suggestion No. 5

When incorporating a character who is multiple, try to give an empathetic portrayal of the genuine difficulties such a person may encounter. No "memory loss", no "ending up in Schenectady", no "struggle for dominance between personalities" and no criminal activity.

Just showing a somewhat sympathetic individual who is multiple can be a catalyst for viewers who are multiple to recognize themselves, thus improving the chances that they will inter-communicate and form healthy, smoothly functioning operating systems.

Empathetic portrayals - exploring what it's like to be multiple - can also foster a better understanding and greater acceptance among the audience at large. Focusing on the person and not just the multiplicity - his or her joys, fears, inner struggles and pleasures - may help the public perceive multiples as little different from themselves, rather than frighteningly alien. The emphasis on the humanistic side of multiplicity sends a message that multiples are not so different after all.

Depiction Suggestion No. 6

Consider showing multiples as productive, functioning members of society who get along with other people as well as with their "inner families".

Fear of exposure may make those who are successful in life afraid to acknowledge their multiplicity. Thus the public, including other multiples themselves, are seldom if ever exposed to positive role models - productive members of society who happen to be multiple.

On the other hand, negative role models - the "mad slasher", the "crazed gunman", etc. - are likely to grab headlines. This overrepresentation of negative imagery gives the public a one-sided, skewed view of multiplicity.

Depiction Suggestion No. 7

Try to avoid labels and pejorative terms like "PSYCHO", "MENTAL CASE" and "WACKO".

Multiples are associated with mental illness, with all the wisecracks and derogatory comments typical of the "last minority". It is still perfectly acceptable in modern society to despise and ridicule the mentally ill. Whether or not multiplicity is a mental illness, this is a shameful and dishonorable way to treat fellow human beings, and it is beneath the dignity of a genuine journalist or screenwriter.

Though it's certainly the writers' prerogative - even their obligation - to craft realistic and effective dialogue, it should also be remembered that words can be very hurtful.

Depiction Suggestion No. 8

If portraying a suicidal individual, consider showing some of the warning signs and the importance of intervention. Remember that there is no proof that multiples are more inclined to suicidal thoughts / actions than the general population. When a multiple is depicted as suicidal, one justified cause might be stress. Having to live "in the closet," pretending to be a single person, effectively lying about one's very nature, might cause a multiple (or a person in a multiple system) to consider suicide. Consult articles and research about gays and suicide in the years before gay acceptance; the situation multiples now face is roughly analogous.

Approximately 31,000 Americans kill themselves every year. Many of these suicides could have been prevented with the proper intervention. According to the American Association of Suicidology, three out of four people who kill themselves give definite warnings about their intentions, but others are either unaware or don't know how to respond.

The media is in an enviable position to provide needed information about warning signs and effective intervention while telling engaging stories at the same time.

The Los Angeles Suicide Prevention Center lists some of these signs, which could be incorporated into a production when appropriate:

  • Experiencing suicidal feelings directly or bringing up the topic of suicide. (Watch this one - some cultures and occupations use jokes about suicide as a way to relieve stress. Don't overinterpret a casual remark.)
  • Giving away prized possessions, settling affairs, and/or making out a will.
  • Exhibiting signs of depression: loss of pleasure, sad mood, alterations in sleeping or eating patterns, feelings of hopelessness, or excessive guilt.
  • Changing behavior, poor work or school performance.
  • Showing risk-taking behaviors.
  • Using alcohol or drugs to a greater degree.
  • Isolating socially.
  • Developing a specific plan (the #1 predictor of suicide).

The following are suggestions of what others can do if someone seems suicidal (based on information supplied by the Los Angeles Suicide Prevention Center and the Los Angeles Unified School District Suicide Prevention Unit):

  • Express concern. Be empathetic and not judgmental.
  • Ask about risk factors. Don't be afraid to ask about suicidal thoughts directly.
  • Take suicidal thoughts and feelings seriously.
  • Let the person know that suicidal feelings are temporary, that depression can be treated and that problems can be solved.
  • Assist with finding alternatives to suicide.

    Never agree to keep serious suicidal thoughts in confidence.

  • Be supportive and follow up.
  • Connect the person with agencies or professionals who can help.
  • Remove possible means of suicide.
  • Call 911 if an attempt has begun or is imminent.
  • Once an attempt has been made, be alert for a possible resurgence of suicidal feelings. Risk is highest in the first six months following the attempt. Continue to ask directly about the presence of suicidal feelings.
  • If the person is imminently suicidal, do not leave him or her alone.

Depiction Suggestion No. 9

Consider showing that even if multiple personality is a mental disorder, this need not mean a death sentence to endless rounds of hospitalization and medication. Reportedly, there are many professionals today who practice 'family therapy' with multiples, helping to establish communication and cooperation rather than forcing the group to integrate and behave as one person -- a goal that FAILED with many famous multiples, including Sybil. Shirley Mason, the real-life Sybil, said that she felt depressed and lonely without her "sisters", and voluntarily re-differentiated on her own.

Laudably, a few highly successful individuals within the entertainment industry have stepped forward to acknowledge their psychiatric problems, giving fellow sufferers both hope and confidence. Multiples who are in show business -- actors, screenwriters, directors, producers, technical -- should come out of the closet and speak out about who they really are.

Depiction Suggestion No. 10

The National Stigma Clearinghouse urges the use of "person-first" language. They want to show that people who have experienced psychiatric disabilities aren't just the sum total of their illness - they're people first.

It probably is not wise to use person-first language when speaking of multiplicity, since that would de-emphasize the idea that the persons in the group are people in and of themselves. However, the idea that multiples are not really that different from any group of single persons should be emphasized.

People in a multiple system have complex personalities of their own; they can be smart, obstinate, sweet, whatever - just like anyone else. But because of pervasive stereotyping, they often get pigeonholed by others so that everything they say and do is seen through the filter of other people's preconceived notions about multiplicity as a mental illness. For example, what may be interpreted as garden-variety anger in a so-called normal person may be seen as "out of control behavior" in someone known to be multiple. Their thoughts and feelings may be dismissed as simply a product of their status as a member of a group sharing a body, just as the valid emotions of a mentally ill person are usually misinterpreted as a symptom of their illness.

NOTE: EIC is looking for productions that accurately depict mental health issues. Please forward shows or movies to Barbara Lurie, EIC West, 500 South Buena Vista Street, Burbank, CA 91521-7283. (EIC website: