Leaving the “House” unprepared

Actor Kal Penn is taking a job in the White House, read the headlines yesterday as I browsed the news pages. At that point, it was pretty obvious that the producers of  “House,” the show in which he played Dr. Lawrence Kutner, must have done something to his character on Monday’s episode. And by now most of us have heard that Kutner unexpectedly committed suicide by a bullet to the head, much to his colleagues’ surprise.

Entertainment news columnists have varying opinions about how the show producers handled Penn/Kutner’s exit from the show. I haven’t been watching this season consistently so it’s almost unfair to the show to give an opinion. But I do take issue with one item on this episode that really has nothing to do with the storyline. At the end of this episode, a screen flashes for mere seconds that said something about mental illness (but not about suicide prevention), a phone number and a logo and website for National Alliance on Mental Illness. Actually, all you can really read is “NAMI” from the logo. The information quickly changes to the preview of next week’s episode before any person would be able to write down those resources had they thought they could use them. Because the show did provide NAMI’s web address and number, I figured I’d visit this site to see how they are hoping to help people who watched “House.”

Since a well-watched primetime TV show gave attention to NAMI, I thought that maybe they’ll use that publicity and mention something about it immediately when someone visits the site. Well, there is something about this TV show on the front page, but it has nothing to do with Dr. Kutner’s suicide. But, you, too, can buy a T-shirt inspired by Dr. Greg House with his House-isms.  Just don’t expect to be able to find the exact info you need in a second. You’ll have to do the navigating of the site yourself.

So you can make a visual comparison to what FOX decided to do with this episode, there was another web sitethat the show advertised after Kutner’s funeral: a Lawrence Kutner memorial website. It comes complete with an obituary, a Dr. Kutner memorial video, among other things. Someone sure spent some time to create such a realistic tribute for a fictional character.

If the show’s producers really wanted to create some awareness about suicide and wanted to follow it up with some useful info, then they failed in that task. Moreover, NAMI could have used this opportunity to further the awareness about suicide and suicide prevention. The episode provided a ‘great’ vehicle to talk about a very serious issue that is hard to talk about so openly, yet a national organization that should be best at strategizing to move this vehicle forward did absolutely nothing, except to sell a t-shirt that says, “Normal is Overrated.”

It would have taken the web site person mere minutes to put something up on the index page of the NAMI website. More I think about it, it seems like those pharmaceutical companies who put out those drug ads are doing a better job at bringing forward the topic of mental illness. I understand that these big pharmas have so much more money than the non-profits who have little money  yet work tirelessly to bring about a topic that is still not easy to talk about. In this case, however, it wasn’t the money that failed them. They just missed an opportunity that was handed to them.

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