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How Not to Prey

March 14, 2011

The news is often full of celebrity stories, some interesting, but most sensational. A recent media frenzy is especially disturbing to me. A lot of air time is being devoted to an actor who is acting in strange ways and saying bizarre things. I’m sure this qualifies as news because people keep turning it on and watching. Someone got tired enough of it that they created a filter you can down load to block articles or block out this actor’s name on your screen.

I’m not an expert, but some mental health professionals have suggested this particular actor may be going through a mental health crisis. If this is true, why is it being broadcast? They don’t seem to put out pictures of a celebrity puking with the flu. Not too many stars with thermometers make the news. Is it even appropriate to have someone who is potentially going through a mental health crisis be featured on the air?

If you will assume with me for a minute that this is a mental health case, what benefit will come to this actor’s life or children? He might be more famous for a few days, but is this the appropriate way? Even if the actor is willing, should someone with a moral spine step in and say, “No more!”?

In Seattle, one of our local anchor women, Kathy Goertzen, is battling a benign but recurring brain tumor. The surgeries have permanently altered her face. The media has given us some very personal glimpses into her life and odyssey. This has been done very thoughtfully and sensitively. It has helped us to appreciate the challenges brain surgery patients can go through. We have seen evidence of a strong and courageous woman who refuses to let the tumor define her value and worth. A tragic situation is being redemptively reported.

I’m not at all opposed to stories that lead to deeper understanding. If a segment could show the gut wrenching agony families have to face when their loved ones struggle with mental health issues, it could be beneficial. My fear, however, is that this Hollywood sensationalism is building a greater stigma that other families and individuals dealing with mental health issues will have to overcome. This reporting is not helping anyone who has to deal with a similar issue.

Is the media so afraid of being ‘scooped’ by a competitor that they will stoop this low? Could someone please step up and turn this blaring mega phone into a beacon that could help the thousands who are struggling with mental illness, withering under this sensational barrage, and being force into deeper seclusion, isolation, and despair? Hollywood relies on people using their eyes and ears, but in this instance, we could use someone with a heart and a brain to help us get the big picture.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Joey permalink
    March 14, 2011 8:55 AM

    This sensationalism leave us “prey” to misunderstanding mental illness and fosters a stigma that is not associated with other illnesses.

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