The fictional Michael Scott from TV comedy The Office has moved from offending his coworkers on the show to upsetting some suicide prevention groups, especially with the recent Halloween episode where the dunder-headed boss tries to scare kids by struggling as he appears to hang from a rope.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and other mental health organizations tell the Associated Press that NBC and others should quit joking about suicide, and express concerns that depicting ways of going through with that kind of act could encourage mentally ill people to take their own lives.
“We try not to be zealots about this,” said Robert Gebbia, the foundation’s executive director. “But this one … kind of crossed the line.”
In last week’s episode, Dunder Mifflin hosts a haunted house where manager Michael Scott, played by Steve Carrell, pretends to hang himself. He then goes into a PSA, saying, “Kids, just remember, suicide is not the answer. It is the easy way out.”
Mental Health America, the National Alliance on Mental Illness and Suicide Awareness Voices in Education have also called out such depictions as insensitive, citing research that says they might influence vulnerable people to copy the act.
“We’re not trying to be censors or fall into the trap of wanting everything to be PC, politically correct,” Gebbia said. “But on the other hand, it’s offensive to some people who have lost relatives to suicide by hanging.”