Mental health groups are upset by the Halloween episode of The Office, in which hapless boss Michael Scott (Steve Carell) slips his neck into a hangman's noose during a haunted house.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and other organizations have come out against the Oct. 29 show and what the organizations call an irresponsible, dangerous stunt on the NBC series. The other groups include Suicide Awareness Voices in Education, Mental Health America and National Alliance on Mental Illness.
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"Portrayals of suicide certainly can be offensive to people who have lost someone," foundation executive director Robert Gebbia told TVGuide.com. "There is some evidence that shows depictions of suicide or methods of suicide — for people who are vulnerable — these depictions can actually be dangerous."
In the episode titled "Koi Pond," Scott shares some advice to a group of young children once in the noose. "Kids, just remember, suicide is not the answer," he says. "It is the easy way out."
Gebbia said the foundation were moved to protest the episode after receiving phone calls from concerned individuals urging action. "We are not trying to be censors and everybody has to be politically correct," he says. "[But] the entertainment industry has to consider you wouldn't show footage of people making fun of someone dying from AIDS ... or breast cancer."
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Unfortunately, Gebbia says, parodying death by suicide is common in pop culture, and that's something the foundation and other mental health organizations are working to change.
"We would like to raise awareness and work with the entertainment industry," Gebbie said. "Things like this just perpetuate the stigma and misunderstanding [of suicide] and create a lot of pain by the people who've been affected."
Gebbia hopes the foundation and other groups' stand against the scene will make an impact in the future. "It's a learning process," he said. "We don't want to be overstated but there is something to learn from this."
NBC did not immediately return calls for comment.