At least 21 reality television stars have taken their own lives in the past decade
Contestants have killed themselves after appearing on hit US shows like The Bachelor and Kitchen Nightmares
Published 02/03/2016 | 08:00
At least 21 Americans have taken their own lives after appearing on reality television shows in the last decade, according to research from the New York Post.
Contestants and their families who appeared on shows including Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, The Bachelor, and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills have all killed themselves.
A fortnight ago Alexa McAllister, 31, took her own life after appearing on The Bachelor – a US show which shows a man looking for love. She became the third person to kill themselves after the show.
In 2007, Gordon Ramsay told struggling New Jersey chef Joseph Cerniglia: “Your business is about to f---ing swim down the Hudson.”
Three years later, Cerniglia killed himself.
“Does appearing on reality television attract people with a higher rate of instability?” said Dr Richard Levak, a California-based personality expert who has worked on several reality shows, including Survivor.
"Are people who are unstable more interested? Or do the vagaries of reality TV precipitate people killing themselves?”
Cerniglia's mother, Patricia Hansen, said she did not blame the show.
“Listen, the restaurant business is the worst business that you can be in,” she said. “We were happy with Kitchen Nightmares. It was fun. Gordon was great.”
But Dr Levak said that producers will often select people who they know are volatile, because it makes for better television.
“Generally, the producers would like people that I was uncomfortable with for psychological reasons,” he told the paper.
“They were obviously the most interesting and attractive,” he added, noting that producers would normally take his professional advice, even if it required a battle.
A series of reality show contestants told The Post that they were ill-prepared for the spotlight.
Jesse Csincsak, the fourth-season winner of The Bachelorette, said he felt the selection process was not sufficiently robust.
"I think people don’t realise the repercussions when they sign up," he said.
Csincsak said he was overwhelmed by the response to his appearing on the show in 2008, and had trouble finding work afterwards.
"Over the course of eight episodes, 50 million people saw them. Everywhere they go – walking down the streets, on Facebook — all these people are judging them.
"They didn’t sign up to be portrayed as the bully or the slut or the drunk or whatever, but they were, because that creates ratings, and ratings equal dollars."
Mr Csincsak said that before appearing on the show he had to answer 1,200 multiple-choice questions, such as “Do you feel sad?” and “Do you ever think about killing your mother?”
But he claimed the questions were less about deducing stability and more about looking for entertaining material for later.
"You say you’re scared of snakes, they’re going to take you to the zoo. If you’re afraid of heights, they’ll make you jump off a cliff,” he said.
“Now they’re even more in-depth, and they ask for your best friend’s number and five past girlfriends. They want to know dirt so they can create a story around you.”
Eliza Orlins, who starred on two seasons of Survivor, told the paper how she was distressed by reading an online message board after she completed the show for the first time, in 2004.
“Half the people were saying, ‘That anorexic b---- should eat a cheeseburger,’ and the other half were like, ‘Oh my God, look at her fat thighs.’
"People aren’t screened as well as they should be. A lot of people have trouble dealing with the aftermath."
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