Friday, May 6, 2016

Reality TV

   Several weeks ago, while channel surfing, my husband and I stumbled across "My 600 Pound Life" and we were immediately struck by the exploitation of the main characters in the show. These are real, live people - real human beings - with poor self-esteem and deep-rooted long-standing troubles, who need mental health counseling, at a bare minimum.
   Like watching a train-wreck, we were sucked in to the drama surrounding the family lives of these people, their seemingly uncaring doctor, and the relationships affected by their situation. Over and over I wanted to scream "go talk to someone!" I turned it on again recently - purposely, this time - to see if the episode had the same ending: overweight person struggles, overweight person continues to overeat, overeating affects the entire family, doctor scolds overweight person, etc. Sadly, it didn't end the same way. It ended with a single mother of six children dying. My husband and I cried on the couch in our living room and shook our heads.
   It occurred to me that their shocking stories are not much different than our own. When my husband was hit by a car in 2010, we didn't expect that his life would change forever. I didn't expect my life to change. I didn't expect that his brain injury would affect every relationship in our circle and every relationship that our circle touched.
   Similar to those people on TV who struggled with losing weight, we also struggled, and continue to do so today. When did our society decide it would be a good idea to take advantage of people less fortunate than ourselves? When did we decide that mental illness belongs in our living rooms, to watch like a dogfight, where someone always loses? The series about hoarding is another example of big networks making money on those with mental illness. What happened to our society?
   Wouldn't it be nice if "reality TV" showed those who are struggling with something they had no control over - an accident, a beating, a stroke - and how they're overcoming their challenges? I'd love to see a weekly series about people re-learning to walk, to speak, surrounded by hope and love, and how they begin their new journey, with "Where are they now?" updates every so often. I'd love to see a show about how families and communities can unite their resources to support someone new to brain injury.
   With all of the new traumatic brain injuries occurring in the world today, why wouldn't we want to be fascinated by resiliency, learning, and the power of love? The networks should focus on the real over-comers and become a voice for those who have lost theirs. Life isn't about ratings; it's about making a difference.


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