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Deplorable Suicide Commercials are Dumped

Deplorable Suicide Commercials are Dumped

by Kevin Caruso

February 23, 2007

A depressed man is standing on the roof of a high building, just inches from the edge, ready to jump to his death. Below him is a group of people looking on, including a police officer with a bullhorn preparing to try to talk him down.

The depressed man yells down to the onlookers about things that are bothering him.

He is ready to jump – he wants to kill himself.

That is how the Volkswagen commercial starts.

Oh, and then they try to sell you a car.

I was sickened when I saw it.

General Motors also produced a commercial with a suicide theme; this one has to do with a suicidal robot, however.

The human-like robot makes the unforgivable mistake of dropping a bolt on the assembly line. And as soon as the bolt hits the floor with a loud “clank,” the robot utters a muted and anxious, “Uh, oh.”

He knows what is coming.

The entire room falls silent and all of the robots and humans on the assembly line look on aghast.

It’s over, and he knows it. You MUST be perfect if you work at GM. So, they fire him for his incompetence.

And so the robot becomes depressed, takes one menial job after the other, and eventually goes to a bridge and jumps to his death.


But as the robot hits the frigid water he…wakes up. It was only a dream. Now then, that should make this commercial somehow “cute” and okay. Right?

No. It makes the commercial unbelievably insensitive and completely deplorable, just like the VW commercial.

There is nothing even remotely cute, funny, or entertaining about suicide.

Would a company show a commercial in which a woman is brutally raped, but then wants to buy a “product”?

Or a commercial in which a domestic violence victim is somehow enticed to buy a “product”?

Or how about someone who has AIDS?

Or a child with cancer?

Is it truly “anything goes” in the field of advertising.

The answer is, of course, a categorical “no.”

So, are these suicide-themed commercials somehow “pushing people over the edge”? Are they going to make people die by suicide?

Probably not. But, first and foremost, they are unbelievably insensitive to everyone who has lost a loved one to suicide, has attempted suicide, is suicidal, or works to assist people in any of these areas.

The ads trivialize suicide; but suicide is one of the most intense tragedies that anyone can experience.

Thank God that Volkswagen and GM both dumped the commercials. Volkswagen dropped the commercial competely, and GM altered theirs by replacing the suicide scene with a non-offensive scene.

And now, we all need to work to raise awareness about suicide, not trivialize it.

Here are some facts about suicide that you should know:

  • Over 30,000 people die by suicide each year in the United States – that is one suicide every 17 minutes or so.

  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people aged 15-24.

  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students.

  • More people die from suicide than from homicide.

  • The number one cause for suicide is untreated depression.

  • Over 90% of the people who die by suicide have a mental disorder at the time of their death.

  • There is help and hope for people who are suicidal.

If you or someone you know is suicidal, please reach out for help. Call a suicide hotline now.

As for Volkswagen and General Motors, two powerful words are in order:

Thank you.

That is right, thank you.

Because you did the right thing after doing the wrong thing. You listened to the suicide community and concerned citizens and pulled the ads.

That means that BOTH of your companies are responsible and caring companies.

And it is clear that there was no INTENTION to harm anyone or to be insensitive. But even without intention, the commercials were ill-conceived and insensitive, at best.

And you ACTED to rectify the situation.

All companies should learn from this debacle.

Here are the rules:

  1. DO NOT run suicide-themed commercials.
  2. If you somehow lose your minds and actually run a suicide-themed commercial, pull it immediately.

But aren’t we beyond rule #2 by now.

I think so.

A better rule:

Run public service announcements about suicide to raise awareness.

Now, those are commercials that we can ALL support.

If you or someone you know is suicidal, please go to the Home Page of this website for immediate help.

Thank you.

I love you.

Take care,

Kevin Caruso

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