Eleven Eleven Media

Daniel Bader, PhD, Looks at How Mental Illness is Portrayed on Reality Television on ‘Bipolar Today’


Toronto, Canada -- (SBWIRE) -- 12/20/2011 -- This month, Amber Portwood, one of the four single moms who appeared on the MTV television show “Teen Mom,” said that she has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and that she also tried to commit suicide after the latest season of the show ended.

As Daniel Bader, PhD, founder of the Bipolar Today, wrote in the latest article on his website, this is not the first time someone with a mental illness has suffered a severe setback after appearing on a reality television show.

Bader’s website features educational articles, daily news posts, and a wide range of information about bipolar disorder. The easy-to-use site is a great resource for both people who have been diagnosed with the mental illness as well as their family, friends, and co-workers.

Bader’s article, titled “Avoiding Freak Shows: Reality Television and Mental Illness” noted that Susan Boyle, who came in second place in the second season of “Britain’s Got Talent” entered a psychiatric institution a day after the program’s final show, and that Paula Goodspeed killed herself outside of former “American Idol” judge Paula Abdul’s home after Goodspeed was rejected during an audition for the program.

What Bader finds particularly disturbing is the way mental illness seems to be depicted as entertainment on reality television shows. These programs, he believes, can easily become nothing more than exploitative television that is demeaning to not only the person on the show, but everyone else who struggles with a mental illness.

“If someone has a psychiatric episode on a television show, it shouldn’t be aired,” he wrote in the article, adding that there have been dozens of cases where someone who clearly has some type of mental illness is shown on the program struggling in some way.

Since reality television shows are inherently thought of as entertainment, Bader said, the way the psychiatric episodes are depicted are also thought of in this vein. These scenes are examples of the exploitation of mental illness.

“The problem isn’t simply that producers are sitting back and watching; they are actively choosing psychiatric episodes to display for the entertainment of their audience. In effect, this turns reality television into freak shows where the mentally ill are the bearded ladies.”

Bader said he hopes that producers will realize that the sudden publicity that many reality television “stars” achieve can be potentially devastating for people with mental illnesses. Calling the newfound fame a “work-related hazard,” Bader contends that measures must be taken to ensure the safety of people who appear on these shows.

About Bipolar Today
Bipolar Today is a website dedicated to the discussion of bipolar disorder. It includes daily news posts, weekly analysis and a host of information about the condition. The site was started in August of 2011, and is hosted by Daniel Bader, PhD, whose doctoral research was in the relationship between practical and scientific knowledge in medicine. For more information, please visit http://www.bipolartoday.com