Appearing on a reality show may be hazardous to your health — in fact, it may be deadly. A new study of reality shows that have aired in the United States since 2005 reveals that 14 of the celebrities have committed suicide.
Recent suicides include Mindy McCready, the country-music star who appeared on “Celebrity Rehab,’’ and shot herself to death, and Mark Balelo, an auction-house owner featured on “Storage Wars,’’ who died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
“Even a show as comparatively well-intentioned as ‘Supernanny’ had a parent among the departed,’’ said veteran New York journalist Seth Kaufman, author the book “The King of Pain,’’ who conducted the study.
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“It definitely has redeeming qualities. But single dad James Terrill killed himself [with a gun] six months after appearing on ‘Supernanny.’’’
Kaufman’s determined the number of contestants on U.S. reality shows since 2005 totals 34,080, 14 of them suicides. The national average rate for suicides is 12.4 per 100,000 people, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
“It’s vastly higher suicide rate than the national average. In fact, it appears to be more than three times the national average,’’ Kaufman told Newsmax.
The underlying reasons for the suicides are unclear.
“There’s a preponderance of evidence that suggests the scars and wounds arising from this kind of exposure are not good for your mental health, your self-esteem,’’ Kaufman said.
“Kelly Clarkson, the first ‘American Idol’ winner and a Grammy-winning sweetheart, would disagree, I’m sure. And doubtless there are others who have found their experience empowering or a great career move.’’
But Kaufman argues that winning on a reality show is the exception, not the rule.
“The odds are stacked that you will get voted off the island on ‘Survivor,’ Randy Jackson will diss your stage presence on ‘American Idol’ and the next day America will agree. Or Heidi Klum will dress down your dress and tell you ‘You’re out,’’’ Kaufman said.
“Not exactly the best set-up for a confidence-building experience. But as ‘Jackass’ and ‘Jerry Springer’ have proven, there’s a pretty big audience for good, clean pain and humiliation. TV producers know this. How that pain is processed and internalized by contestants can’t be edited in post-production.’’
He said the shows limit their liability by requiring all contestants to indemnify the producers from any personal mishaps.
Some of the suicides include:
• Russell Armstrong of the “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,’’ who hanged himself
• Wesley Durden of “The Next Great Baker’’
• Najai Turpin of “The Contender,’’ who shot himself
• Julien Hug of “The Bachelorette,’’ who shot himself
• Cheryl Kosewicz of “Pirate Master’’ who killed herself in her home
• Nathan Clutter of “Paradise Hotel 2,’’ who jumped from a tower
• Paula Goodspeed of “American Idol,’’ who overdosed
• Ryan Jenkins of “Megan Wants a Millionaire,’’ who hanged himself after killing his wife
• Joseph Cerniglia of “Kitchen Nightmares,’’ who jumped off a bridge
Kaufman — a former New York Post reporter who runs the blog “thekingofpainbook.com — said he believes the misery is not over.
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“Eventually another contestant is going to snap, either on-screen or off, with tragic results,’’ Kaufman said. “Expect major hand-wringing. And denial of responsibility. And still more suicides. And more and more envelope-pushing series.’’
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