James D. Huysman Psy.D., LCSW

Life in the Recovery Room

Is Fame Really Worth Risking Mental Health?

Some are payng the ultmate price for standing in the spotlight

Posted Jul 14, 2015

Source: from WikiCommons Dean leu Wales

When the court, talk and reality television genre began to achieve popularity in the 1990’s I would not have predicted the stranglehold it would come to have on what we consider “entertainment” today.  In those  days, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to serve as the clinical consultant on a number of these shows, among them were Geraldo, Montel, Lezaa, Larry Elder Show, Beyond with James Van Praagh, Talk or Walk, Rock Bottom, Rick Sanchez Show, Boy Meets Boy, and I Was a Talk Show Survivor.

The quest for 15 minutes of fame began to backfire for many hapless participants in what I would have to call ‘the 20th Century version of the games in Rome’s Coliseum’.  The weapons being used were different - resentment, perceived slights, revenge, anger, blame and, some of the gladiators were simply fragile humans uttering desperate cries for attention.  This was all in the name of exploring the human experience and talking about REAL problems and REAL issues.

It wasn’t a bad notion to use TV to shed light on the human condition.  However, as a psychologist and Licensed Clinical Social Worker, I know that whenever human beings are knowingly or unknowingly pitted against each other in a public forum, it triggers instincts in them and unpredictable behaviors which have not evolved much past the primordial ooze.   It was disturbing and gave me pause.

I saw the emotional devastation and mental health of guests become collateral damage to ratings and could not sit idly by.  I formed a company called TV Aftercare™ that is still in existence today and has provided millions of dollars of mental and behavioral services for television guests.  Because of my extensive work with this genre, I was the only licensed therapist who could testify as to the state of mind of a talk show guest and was called as an expert witness in the infamous Time-Warner/Jenny Jones trial.

Fast forward to today…the ratings juggernaut of REALITY television is off the charts.  It really doesn’t say much about our sensibilities to know that there are many who know all about the Kardashians and Real Housewives, but virtually nothing (no pun intended) about the real world.

While the genre has flourished, not that much else has changed; just the body count.  For a truly insightful look at the human cost of our obsession with reality television, please read this insightful article by writer Angela Bronner Helm, http://hellobeautiful.com/2015/06/23/can-15-minutes-of-fame-kill-you.