The content of episode 909 of your program Two and a Half Men, "Frodo's Headshots," is damaging to the mental health community. By perpetuating harmful notions and using alienating language, the episode continues to a long-standing tradition of irresponsible treatment of mental illness and mental health issues by the media. It is widely accepted that the media are a major factor in the creation of stigma toward mental illness through misinformation and negative portrayal.
Throughout the episode, ostensibly comedic dialogue is used to strongly imply that people living with mental illness are inferior and deserving of mockery and poor treatment. Several jokes in the dialogue trivialize suicide and the lives of its victims, once referring to them as "whackjobs" who "screw it up for the rest of us." (The character who speaks this line is a health professional!) A incomplete suicide attempt by a major character is also played for a laugh, and he is subjected to derision by his friends and family for having sought help at a stress clinic (repeatedly referred to as a "loony bin," eventually even by him). An antipsychotic medication is used as a punchline, and the line "There's no shame in mental illness" is likewise followed by a laugh track, creating the impression that the audience is supposed to believe that there is, in fact, shame in mental illness.
The plot of the episode, in which Alan Harper (portrayed by Jon Cryer) returns home from a stress clinic only to find that his life has become significantly more stressful than it was before, could easily have been written as a sympathetic look at the stigma surrounding mental illness (and, yes, this still could have been a funny episode; there's still humor to be found in the darkest truths if they are handled respectfully, after all). Instead, the writers chose to take hurtful and unfair shots at a group that is already stigmatized and misunderstood.
I feel that as a program watched by millions, Two and a Half Men should have more awareness of its reach and influence, and take responsibility for its treatment of vital social issues. It concerns me greatly that something as innocent and potentially joyful as a sitcom could be preventing as many as thousands of people from seeking the help they need, or harming their self-worth based on a struggle they didn't ask for.
I have been living with bipolar disorder for years, and coping successfully for several months, and I was greatly troubled, insulted, and disturbed by this episode. I am sincerely worried about the effect this episode could have, or already has had, on others in situations both like and different from mine.
The harm this episode could cause far outweighs the few cheap laughs it may have provided, and it is my opinion that this episode should be pulled from syndication and never aired again.
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