Reality TV and Mental Health
Well, unless you have been living under a rock for the past few days you will have no doubt heard that the “Jeremy Kyle Show” has been take off the air indefinitely due to the presumed suicide of one of its guests a week after the programme was made. Now, I do not want to make any comments on an investigation which is ongoing, but rather I want to make some comments about mental health and reality TV in general.
Many, many people who are wringing their hands over this unfortunate episode had more than enough time before hand to vote with their feet and stop watching programmes like this. Also, for those politicians who are entering the fray, you also had more than enough time to act before this event took place. It is a bit disingenuous to start calling for a programme to be permanently taken off air, when the format has been on our airways for more than a decade. Reality shows for more than 10 years seem to have entranced viewers. To watch real life people struggle with issues seem to give us a sense of entertainment and “their but for the grace of Godism”
Whether it on Jeremy Kyle or other reality programmes, it can certainly be argued that not enough is being done to vet the participants as far as mental health is concerned. (Of course this presumes participants are honest about their mental health at the beginning) In truth, this is most likely because that the less stable a person is, the better the television can be made of it. Be honest, if balanced and rational people appeared on these programmes people would not watch, it would be boring. But get someone on with issues and the entertainment value soars.
If you genuinely feel bad about what has happened in this and other shows, please vote with your feet, stop watching. It is really the only way that networks will rethink the format and move away from “human baiting” formats which clearly have caused real harm to real people.