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Published: Friday, 10/8/2010

Mental-health group assails 2 Cedar Point attractions

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

"Both of these displays suggest that people with mental illness are dangerous and deranged and that the general public should be frightened of such people," Terry Russell, interim executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Ohio, said in a letter this week to Cedar Point. "Mental illnesses are biological brain disorders. ... They are diseases."

The group would like the amusement park to cease operating two attractions - a haunted house called "Dr. D Mented's Asylum for the Criminally Insane" and an indoor show called "The Edge of Madness - Still Crazy." Both are part of the park's Halloweekend attractions that began Sept. 17 and run every Friday through Sunday through Oct. 31.

Contacted at the group's headquarters in Columbus, Mr. Russell said Cedar Point had not responded to the request, "but we hope they will" to discuss the matter.

Cedar Point spokesman Robin Innes said the park will contact Alliance officials, but it does not intend to remove the attractions.

"We appreciate the valuable services that NAMI provides to people mental illnesses. But Halloweekends are not intended to depict the real world, and changes are not required," Mr. Innes said.

Bob Carolla, a spokesman for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the parent group in Arlington, Va., said attractions that stereotype the mentally ill as dangerous or threatening are common in October. Most operators of such attractions are unaware such things create a perception of mental illness and contribute to a stigma, he added.

"Stigma … creates a barrier to people getting help when they need it for fear of being made fun of or ostracized," he said.

Mr. Carolla said this is the second complaint his organization has received about a Cedar Fair LP property. Earlier, it received a complaint about a Halloween attraction at Carowinds park in Charlotte.

"It would be better if Cedar Fair Entertainment had thought this through a little bit more," Mr. Carolla said.



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