In a recent post, I talked about the way shows like MTV’s Teen Mom do damage to cast members, particularly the small children who appear on the show. Today, I’d like to discuss a different kind of cast, the addicts who have appeared on VH1’s Celebrity Rehab.
Mindy McCready was the fifth person from a Celebrity Rehab cast to die. She follows Joey Kovar, Rodney King, Jeff Conaway, and Mike Starr. These deaths bring to light many questions about shows that I call, “info-tainment” – television productions that highlight the “real life struggles” of people in difficult situations (teen motherhood, drug addiction, etc.). As info-tainment, is there any public benefit to these shows? Do they in any way encourage addicts into treatment or make some teens think twice before having unprotected sex or are they simply an opportunity for us to feel better about ourselves and our lives by laughing at those who struggle with real problems?
As I said repeatedly this week, “Mindy McCready’s death is certainly a tragedy and one that was perhaps preventable if she had gotten real treatment. Celebrity Rehab is a farce as a foundation for treatment. Recovery does not happen in twenty-one days for individuals suffering profoundly from multiple disorders, such as Mindy McCready, and it does not occur under the view of millions of television viewers. One of the main needs any addict has is to develop a sincere, trusting relationship with a therapist and privately uncover the root causes of their addiction. This does not happen in a television show where addicts are part of a ‘cast’ and followed by television cameras 24 hours a day everywhere but in the bathroom! Those who suffer from depression, suicidal ideation, and addiction need long-term, private support in a safe environment. It is tragic that Ms. McCready did not receive that level of care.”
Being a treatment provider, I am uncomfortable with any television programs that show the “real life” ravages of addiction. There is always an element of people playing up for the camera with “reality” TV. Though I understand that the public gains value from seeing the devastating effects “first-hand” that addiction has on families, it is in my view more important that those suffering from addiction get the real treatment that they need – usually 90 or so days in duration with skilled professionals in private, safe, secure settings. Too many addicts fail to recover as it is. Let’s not stack the deck against them further by providing “treatment” that has little hope of bringing any sort of lasting recovery and in a lot of cases does more harm than good.