The “Genie, you’re free” tweet from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences about Robin Williams death is getting backlash for perhaps portraying suicide the wrong way.
Shortly after Williams’ death on Monday due to hanging himself, The Academy sent out a tweet with a picture of the Genie hugging Aladdin in the hit movie. Williams voiced the Genie.
“Genie, you’re free,” the only text in the post read.
The tweet quickly circulated, and now has over 320,000 retweets.
But Christine Moutier, chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, told the Washington Post that there may be problems with the tweet.
“If it doesn’t cross the line, it comes very, very close to it,” she said. “Suicide should never be presented as an option. That’s a formula for potential contagion.”
Genie, you’re free. pic.twitter.com/WjA9QuuldD
— The Academy (@TheAcademy) August 12, 2014
The Post says that Moutier is referring to a well-documented phenomenon, better-known as “copycat suicide,” in which media coverage or publicity around one death encourages other vulnerable people to commit suicide in the same way.
“In the hours since @TheAcademy’s tweet went viral, professionals like Moutier have become concerned that it doesn’t, in fact, follow established safety recommendations. The starry sky from Disney’s Aladdin, and the written implication that suicide is somehow a liberating option, presents suicide in too celebratory a light, Moutier said,” the Post reported.
Moutier says that the focus should be on Williams’ incredible life, not how he died, and that stories about Williams hanging should include as much as possible acknowledgement of how suicide has underlying issues and how those issues can be addressed.
“A quarter of the population suffers from mental health issues that could potentially drive suicidal thoughts,” Moutier said. “This is a very important issue, from a public health standpoint, and one we need to bring to light.”