David Earl Johnson, LICSW

3 minute read

I find it increasing disturbing what people find entertainment these days. I guess I shouldn’t. It hasn’t been that long ago that Romans turned out by the thousands to watch lions devour Christians. American TV audiences seem to relish watching people immersed in bugs or snakes. I remember watching “I Love Lucy” and loving her antics and cheering for her to get one over on Ricky. But watching people under pressure engage in self-destructive behavior is not something I’d call entertainment. On British TV, audiences are watching a reality show highlighting people with alternative lifestyles, a history of mental illnesses and self-destructive behavior. the Daily Mail

“Big Brother” is under fire from mental health groups once again after another vulnerable contestant was put into the reality TV house. […]Shahbaz threatened to kill himself live on television before quitting the show, Lea has tried to commit suicide and has undergone extensive plastic surgery because she was unhappy with her appearance, Nikki has suffered anorexia and Pete has Tourette’s Syndrome. […]Although producers say all housemates are put through rigorous psychological testing before entering the house, Ms Richardon said they have failed to provide the foundation with information about which professionals are hired to assess the potential housemates and whether the screening procedures are adequate. “If people do have mental health problems in real life they do get stigmatised and what seems to be happening is they are turning up more and more on reality television shows where they are put under immense pressure. “What we are concerned about is pushing people too far for the sake of entertainment.” At first glance I agreed with the Iast comment. Then I remembered that these people are volunteers who are getting paid for their antics. While the MH Advocates are sputtering, are the “stars” of this show laughing all the way to the bank? Over the years I’ve used the concept of “vulnerable” less and less when referring to persons with mental health difficulties. Truly persons with an active psychotic disorder are vulnerable and often unpredictable. And people who have a naive approach to trusting are vulnerable to exploitation. However, in most cases, the people I work with are not generally vulnerable. They may well be self-destructive, but most have survived more trauma than I can imagine enduring. They have faced and escaped the most sophisticated relationship manipulators and terrorists known. Many may well have identified with the aggressor and became manipulative themselves. I would hardly call them vulnerable. Why would I presume to deny them the ability to choose how they make their money? Shouldn’t people with a mental health problem have every right we all have? I think so. But I would never watch this show. I know the history of pain for which outrageous behavior speaks. Hat tip to ShrinkRap. Update: Here is a eloquently written alternative view that I sympathize with greatly.

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