--Original published at MaddiesCollegeBlog
For my final spotlight post, I decided to choose option 2, which discusses the recent controversy of reality television shows like Hoarders, My Strange Addiction, True Life, etc. and if they are exploiting those who suffer from these types of illnesses, or it is actually beneficial.
Over the years, there has been a significant increase in entertainment shows focusing on television shows that showcase mental illnesses for some-sort of amusement for those who watch. Most television shows that do this, do not accurately portray what having a mental illness is truly like and put them down for their actions. Those who are diagnosed with a mental illness are very mistreated by the media, and deserve better treatment in general. In my opinion, I feel that it is very unethical to project these people’s lives as if it is an entertainment act for the world to see. Those who suffer from a mental illness have lost a lot, dealt with an immense amount of pain, and are just trying to live their life normally. Television shows like Hoarders or My Strange Addiction are not benefiting people with mental illnesses, I believe that it is only a temporary solution to their mental illness, and once the camera’s stop rolling and the psychologists stop visiting – it all comes back again. I have watched numerous episodes of these types of shows and have watched the amount of distress and misery they encounter, yet the shows apparently aim to “help” improve the hoarder’s living atmosphere, relationships, and overall health.
For my first approach at this issue, I decided to look at the side that viewed it in a helpful way, the first article that I found was an article that was written in 2014 by a website that discusses ways to improve your everyday health and then specific disorders like anxiety, depression, mood disorders, etc. The website had started off with an introduction similar to mine, just stating that their has been recent attention given to the particular show, and does it accurately portray what actually having the mental illness is like. They asked this question to 3 people, all who are licensed psychologists, RN’s, and hold a management position. Both the second and third interviewers claim that the show does accurately represent what the illness is like. They both claimed that a major pro to these shows is that the more popular it becomes, the more awareness about the mental illness is dispersed into the world for everyone to see. People who watch the show that are affected by it, can know that there is help out there and that they are not alone.
I felt that this website was pretty credible because it was a website specifically for the treatment of mental health disorders & everyday health. All three of the interviewers had background with hoarding and are familiar with the field. Especially the two who felt that the show could be positive in some ways, one was an RN and the other was a professional organizer. Since they are familiar with this type of mental illness along with other common knowledge about general good health, I am willing to trust this source.
For my second article, I discovered an article written on a website called “Psychology Today”, which was written by Seth Myers. The article was titled “Mental Illness On Reality TV: Helpful or Harmful?” Mainly, the article discusses how it is a good thing when a show can accurately display what a mental illness is doing to a person and their relationships. It is also good for mental illness to be televised because people who also suffer will see it and can relate to it, they can reach out to them or get help for themselves, seeing this can inspire them to get help for themselves or make new connections. Another way that it Is beneficial is that people usually use TV or other social media in general to show/share their dark thoughts and by what they watch or write about can be a cry for help and if the right person see’s it, they can take action to get that person the help they need. Myers claims that overall it is a beneficial thing to have television shows and social media portray mental illness for one main reason of kick-starting them to realize what is happening, get into professional care or treatment and get it done now.
I thought that this website seemed very credible and trustworthy. Not only did it have a lot of information to read about, but it also had a lot of examples of different TV shows and good examples of why it Is beneficial. This article was also written by a licensed psychologist who specializes in the Department of Mental Health so, he is very familiar and has a high amount of knowledge within all mental illnesses.
For my third article, I switched views and now am looking at the side that believes it is not beneficial to display mental illness for entertainment. An article I found, written by a reporter for the Huffington Post, stated that after her research with the topic; shows like Hoarders should be shut down. She begins with a description of a specific episode where a married couple for 31 years, the wife has a serious hoarding disorder and admits that, but claims that she “just doesn’t feel like clearing it all out.” The author of the article claims that by portraying people like this couple, it shows the bad side and creates the stigma about mental illness, and is not really raising awareness for the disorder, but more so putting it to shame. She then goes on to discuss a recent report that was conducted by The British Psychological Society, their overall claim was that television shows and social media should stop using mental health disorders to shock and entertain the public, it is something serious and should not be taken in a joking or light manner in any way. The first researcher of the study, Randy Frost, mainly said that people who show up to someones house and start to force and push this person to let them throw out their possessions is a way to clean the house and satisfy the viewers, but in reality, only works for so long. It doesn’t stop that person from feeling the compulsions to hoard. In order to help a person not feel attached to every possession they encounter, they need to receive long-term cognitive behavioral therapy first. Without this, the house is just going to pile up again in a matter of months. According to American Psychological Association, it is hard to pin point a specific number of many individuals are affected by hoarding everyday, but research in the past has suggested that 2-5% of the population has dealt with it to some degree. Since the disorder can sometimes be so detrimental to an individual or families lifestyle, it should not be broadcasted for everyone to see. It Is also very likely that a person who suffers from hoarding also is affected by multiple other mental health disorders like, PTSD, anxiety, depression, ADHD, or possibly on the autism spectrum disorder.
I felt that this article was very credible because the author used a lot of outside resources to bring an immense amount of information into her own article. All the research she did to write this, was all provided by experts in the hoarding field. Psychologists, authors of people who wrote books on this illness. In my opinion, these sources were all very credible, which made it easier to believe that her viewpoint was correct.
For my fourth and final article, I found an article titled “Hoarding: Why Forced Clean outs are Unsuccessful”, written by Erin Doland. He started discussing how on Memorial Day, A&E (known for the broadcasting channel for the show Hoarders) had run a day-long marathon on their first season of the show, Hoarders. Once the re-run season was finished, they released a new episode called “Where are they now?” that showed 5 people for the original season one year later, 4 out of the 5 people had returned to their old habit of hoarding. He discussed that he could not even fully watch the episode because it was just a reminder of how the show is aimed to entertain the public, rather than actually attempt to help those who are in desperate need. He believes that the show dehumanized the participants and does not display how they truly do attempt to help them. Donland said that after reading the book titled,” Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things” by Randy Frost and Gail Steketee, hoarding specialist, they have known that the forced clean out of that person’s home is considered a trauma for them. When a random clean-up crew come and touch, move, throughout these possessions for this individual it becomes a traumatic experience and results in panic attacks and depression. Frost and Steketee stated that they knew several cases of which many hoarders who have committed suicide after a forced clean out. Doland ended his article with a brief statement saying that he does think it brings attention to the disorder, but not in a positive way, they do not approach these people in a compassionate or truly helpful way, which then leads to larger problems and most likely another cluttered house in the future.
At first, I thought this was going to be a skeptical source, but after reading through it I found very credible information, especially because most of the information was coming from a very well-known book that was written by two hoarding experts, so they have great amount of knowledge on this subject.
After doing the research on the pro’s and con’s of these shows, I feel that it has strengthened my hate for these types of series. I found that it was much easier to find articles that discussed why it is not beneficial to keep these shows on air rather than why we should. This made me believe even more that these shows are not ethical in any way, and should not be aired on television or posted on social media. I believe that there is a universal agreement that it is beneficial for a small amount of time but, in the end it does not give a permanent solution nor does it cure the addiction for that person. These types of shows do also bring awareness to the disorders, and can potentially serve as an outlet to receive help, but I feel as if it is not in the correct manner. Individuals who suffer from mental illness’ like hoarding and other addictions need more than just a push to make a change. They need family support, long-term therapy, and a will to do it for themselves and on their own. When random people barge into their home and start touching and throwing out their belongings is not an adequate way to help anyone, if anything it is going to pro-long the situation.