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Senior Manager, Media Relations
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September 12, 2013 - We are disappointed that DC Comics has decided to host a contest looking for artists to develop ways to depict suicide attempts by one of its main villains – Harley Quinn. According to the contest website: "Breaking into comics was never this fun. ;)"
There is nothing fun (or funny!) about suicide. It is a serious national health problem that has claimed the lives of more than 300,000 people in the United States over the past 10 years and takes an enormous toll on families, friends, classmates, co-workers and entire communities. Among youth and young adults, suicide is the third leading cause of death. More than 90 percent of people who die by suicide have a treatable mental illness such as depression, bipolar illness, schizophrenia and/or alcohol and substance abuse. Yet, only 38 percent of U.S. adults with diagnosable mental illnesses, and less than 20 percent of children and adolescents, receive needed treatment.
This week we commemorated the 11th annual World Suicide Prevention Day with the theme "Stigma: A Major Barrier for Suicide Prevention." Too many people who die by suicide suffer in silence due to fear of the perceived stigma surrounding mental illness.
We believe that instead of making light of suicide, DC Comics could have used this opportunity to host a contest looking for artists to depict a hopeful message that there is help for those in crisis. This would have been a positive message to send, especially to young readers.
On behalf of the tens of millions of people who have lost a loved one to suicide, this contest is extremely insensitive, and potentially dangerous. We know from research that graphic and sensational depictions of suicide can contribute to contagion.
While we understand that this may have been unintentional, nonetheless this contest was a mistake in judgment. We hope the company acts responsibly and moves quickly to revise this contest. Our organizations would welcome the opportunity to be of assistance with such an action.
Robert Gebbia, Executive Director
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
Jeffrey Lieberman, M.D., President
American Psychiatric Association
Michael J. Fitzpatrick, Executive Director,
National Alliance on Mental Illness
Call the NAMI Helpline at
text "NAMI" to 741741