--Original published at Gracie's Blog
Some people do not know they have a mental illness until they seek help, but what if they do not have the opportunity to find the help? Several television shows portray what people with mental illnesses go through on a normal day. I personally think that most of the television shows like “Hoarders” for example provide an opportunity for people to get the help they need. There are many reasons as to why displaying a person with a mental illness on TV for millions of people to see can be beneficial. I think that showing people dealing with a mental illness on public television is ethical because they are agreeing to be a part of the television program. They are also getting the help they need to overcome their mental illness, as well as possibly help viewers who may be struggling with the same mental illness.
Online sources are somewhat indecisive. There are reasons supporting how television shows about people dealing with a mental illness can be both helpful and harmful towards the people in the shows and the viewers.
One reason why turning some mental illnesses into entertainment on public television is beneficial is for the viewers sake. Some viewers watching may find that they are suffering from a similar mental illness, and through the television program they can see they are not alone (Meyers, Seth). There are several examples of people who after watching “Hoarders” realized they too may have a mental illness. One person states, “It was only when the programs were on television that I thought it’s actually a mental health problem” (Almendrala, Anna). Some people may be scared to ask if they have a mental illness, but seeing others who are going through the same thoughts is helpful. A variety of popular programs are real life and help contestants willing to publicized their mental illnesses. Well-known people like Phil Donahue and Oprah take time to help and develop different solutions to help people with mental illnesses (The British Psychology Society). Similar to Phil and Oprah, a woman named Dorothy helps hoarders realize they need to change their ways and helps organize random objects and trash in order to clean the house (Dehnart, Andy). A majority of these reality mental illness television shows are unscripted and reveal raw life of people living with a mental illness (Almendrala, Anna). Many people watching the show may not have known there was actually help available for certain mental illnesses (Almendrala, Anna). Watching television is very popular and when discovering that there are options out there for viewers who may need help, family members or the people with the mental illness may contact the show. Television shows displaying help can be a resource for viewers who need help.
On the other hand there are negative sides to having television shows pertaining to mental illnesses, which can harm both viewers and/or people taking part in the show dealing with the mental illness. According to experts, the television series “Hoarders” featured on the channel A&E, mainly wants to show how crazy some people are. Directors also look for a good story by incorporating emotion and drama into the episodes. There are also thoughts that the television show is only looking to entertain and shock the public eye (The British Psychology Society). A guy named Reddit, whose father is a hoarder mentions how there is no long-term improvement from being on the show “Hoarders” (Bussel, K. Rachel). If there is not a long-term effect from being on the show, the hoarder may feel like they wasted their time and may feel embarrassed for exposing their mental illness for no reason. Viewers may not know that the results are short-term and get their hopes up. There are other options available for people suffering from mental illnesses such as cognitive behavior therapy, and the results are usually long-term (Amandrala, Anna). There are other systems accessible for people who need assistance in treating their mental illness, and television is not the only option.
Overall, television shows about mental illnesses can be harmful and helpful to people shown in the show with a mental illness and to the viewers who may also be dealing with the same mental illness. I believe displaying television shows about the reality of mental illnesses is mainly helpful because the people in the show most likely overcome their mental illness thanks to professional help. Viewers watching the show may be dealing with similar mental illnesses and find that they are not alone.
Almendrala, Anna. “Hoarding Reality Shows Might Do More Harm Than Good”. Huffpost Healthy Living, Oath Inc, 12 June 2015,
Bussel, K. Rachel. “Stop Watching “Hoarders”: Our Lurid Reality TV Obsession with Mental Illness Has Crossed the Line”. Salon, Associated Press, 23 January 2016,
Dehnart, Andy. “Why Dorothy Breininger Brings Dignity to Hoarders’ Trash”. Realityblurred, 16 July 2015,
Meyers, Seth. “Mental Illness on Reality TV: Helpful or Harmful?”. Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 12 April 2015,
The British Psychology Society.