Should people with mental health issues be on reality TV?

  • 11 October 2013
  • From the section Health

Charities have asked TV bosses whether people with mental health problems should take part in reality shows.

The anti-stigma campaign Time To Change, run by mental health charities Mind and Rethink, asked the question as part of their online forum.

Commissioning editors for BBC Three and Channel 4 said it depended on the contributors, contestants and show.

Ex-reality contestants, who took part in the discussion, said everyone involved in the show should be open.

Justin Gorman, the head of entertainment at Channel 4, said broadcasters are responsible for making sure everyone is safe.

"All of those people who appear in those shows, regardless of their backgrounds, and indeed their mental health, the most important thing to us is their welfare and our duty of care to them to ensure that they're looked after through the process and indeed, at the end.

"I think everyone should be allowed the possibility of being on the show, but ultimately it is our job to ensure that no-one is put in a position where they're going to come into harm."

The commissioning editor of BBC Three, Elliot Reed agreed with Justin Gorman, saying they involve as many people in the production process as possible.

"We talk to family and friends, we talk to employers, we talk to doctors and we build up a picture around this person in order to assess whether they can cope with the filming process."

Nikki Grahame

Nikki Graham was a Big Brother housemate in 2006. The 31-year-old suffered from anorexia for 23 years and said she was happy to speak publically about her mental health issues.

She also admitted she wasn't truthful about her mental health issues the first time she auditioned.

"I knew that it would hinder my chances of getting in if I told them the fact that I suffered from a mental health illness.

"I mean the first time I applied, it did jeopardise my role as a housemate after getting quite far in the audition process. So I realised that the second time I auditioned not to tell them."

She said she wanted to turn her experience into a positive thing and wrote a book documenting her struggles with anorexia.

"I've had so much feedback, positive feedback, saying that my experiences, speaking about them has helped people."

Shirlena Johnson

Shirlena Johnson auditioned for The X Factor in 2010 and said she was completely honest about her history of mental health issues when she filled out her application details.

"I lost my dad so it was bi-polar and depression."

Johnson was dropped from the show despite making it to the judges' houses.

"They just told me in person in the office and that was it really. The doctor also said I wasn't fit to do it, when I was.

"By actually doing that can make it worse for the individual, they don't take that into consideration."

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