Suicide And Reality Stars – A Concerning Trend?

Suicide and reality stars-  the list as I currently have to date includes: 14 adult reality TV stars have committed suicide since 2005. In looking at the time line it has been approximately at least one per year.  This is disturbing! Is this a concerning trend? With the latest reality TV star’s suicide being from the Bachelor; Gia Allemand. More people die of suicides than in car crashes according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. This blog article includes a Q&A with Dr. K – yes, 4 questions answered by this Psychotherapist.

  1. Is it the fault of Reality TV why a person on their show commits suicide?
  2. What is it about Reality TV that may trigger suicide?
  3. Why do people commit suicide?
  4. Is there advice to give to the Reality TV industry for suicide prevention?

STAR magazine may not be the magazine readers go to for the most up to date medical information, of course not! It is known to be a tabloid for celebrity news. By gosh though, they are covering an important topic with their publication dated on September 2nd, 2013 which includes an interview with Psychotherapist Dr. Karen Ruskin- yup that’s me, about reality TV and suicide. 

Q&A With DR. K:

Is it the fault of reality TV why a person on their show commits suicide?

It is  not their fault, they did not cause it.  Underlying pre-existing emotional/mental instability of which an intense experience that does not meet up to one’s expectations, feeling like a failure, and/or no way out of the pain leads to suicide. Rather the reality TV experience was a trigger of this. Reality TV can trigger a pre-existing condition that leads a person to kill themselves, it is not the causal factor.

What is it about reality TV that is triggering suicide for some?

The intensity of having to be an over the top version of yourself, selling yourself as though you are a product, combined with following the direction of the producers to show intense emotion to be a big personality – is extremely overwhelming and can be quite toxic. It is exciting providing an intense drug-ish high for many ultimately leading to an extremely dark emotional low. In essence, a crash and burn experience for some. Way too much of an emotional high, so you fall down so low. Combine this with a pre-existing condition of suicidal thoughts or mental/emotional instability, low self worth, in conjunction with feeling like a failure all mixed together is trouble. Plus, add on the fact that the participant’s experience did not meet up to what they thought their experience would be. An outcome of feeling like a failure. It is the feeling that there is  no way out of their emotional pain that they are feeling, this failed no way out feeling – all this combined is a trigger.

Why do people commit suicide?

The most common reason why people commit suicide is because they feel that there is no way out of the pain other than death. They do not see a solution, an end in sight to their pain. They feel like a failure. Often the themes that draw out such intensity of this emotion are relationship issues between one’s spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend and/or work financial theme. People who have a low sense of self worth with negative self talk and feelings of depression are pieces of the puzzle to understand what leads a person to kill themselves.

Are there suicide prevention tips/a solution plan for the reality TV industry?

As a psychotherapist, I would like to see a suicide prevention plan and an emotional stability therapeutic plan be in place for the reality TV genre.

  • I would suggest a psychological evaluation pre- acceptance to be a participant. The reality shows often report that they do a rigorous check. The rigorous check certainly is not a psychological evaluation. What’s this check? Background checks are not psychological evaluations.
  • Stating you have a therapist available on staff, I see as not enough. Rather, weekly therapist check in appointments provided as part of the contract agreement – have that as mandatory. A therapist cannot be afraid to ask the participant if they are feeling suicidal.

Although I am offering suggestions for the reality TV industry, the fact remains that ultimately people are responsible for their own actions. Reality TV is understood to be be emotional for their participants. So, to hold the reality TV industry responsible for providing mandatory psychological evaluations prior to acceptance and mandatory therapy check-ins may not be ultimately what occurs. So, this then leads the point to be offered to potential participants. Should one consider setting up their own evaluation, setting up their own appointments?

Help – Don’t wait:

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please seek out help immediately. Suicidal thoughts and feelings must be taken seriously.
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