Patricia Casey: "'Jeremy Kyle Show' turned television into gladiatorial bloodletting of guests' emotions'
About five years ago the Mater Hospital opened a new out-patient wing. Spacious, with a lot of natural light, it is the epitome of a modern hospital. The large waiting rooms have widescreen TVs attached to the walls, so as to while away the time for the anxious patients waiting to be called by their doctor. My clinic is held every Thursday morning. One day, walking through the seating area, I noticed a TV programme that seemed to be of interest, to at least some of those waiting. My wise secretary told me that it was the 'Jeremy Kyle Show' and that, in her opinion, it was a disturbing programme. I stood and watched for a few minutes.
I had no hesitation in accepting just how vile this show was. We both decided to change channels and in the future to choose something more relaxing and perhaps inspirational. We chose Lyric FM.
As I watched the show, I observed a woman and her two sons on screen. Clearly she was trying to mend her relationship with one son while the other shouted and screamed at his brother. There was also a lover in the picture. As the anger mounted, so did the whooping and hollering from the audience, encouraged by Kyle. All were escorted off the set and even as they left, one pathetic son, who had my sympathy, cried for his mother's love and for her to leave her lover. The audience continued their baiting.
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I decided that this show was unfit for viewing by anybody, even the most resilient among us. It showed people at their worst, turned into gawking and complicit spectators to a tragedy.
The 'Jeremy Kyle Show' has now been halted and all back issues deleted by ITV after a man died, allegedly, by suicide a few days after he had been filmed on the show. He had failed the lie detector test which he had taken regarding infidelity and the results were announced on air. He was reported to have become fixated and overwhelmed by this.
This programme thrives on anger, dysfunction, boundary violations and exposing the vulnerabilities of those who are emotionally desperate.
Poverty is writ large on many of the participants and audience members and many have probably had limited educational opportunities.
The programme misleads by claiming that it provides counselling before, during and after the appearance, delivered by mental health nurses and a consultant psychotherapist.
But any properly trained mental health professional should know that opening wounds can take time to heal and requires more than a telephone-call or two after the show.
What ethical therapist would offer their services to a show such as this?
This show is focused on macerating the psyche of its participants and exposing those whom the audience believes to be guilty of some transgression, to a psychological flogging, in public.
Their sense of self-worth, or whatever shred they had at the beginning, is now destroyed. All of this is done with the active encouragement of Kyle, the host.
Those who participate in shows such as this or reality TV like 'Love Island' do so because they are desperate, either for attention or for healing from some relationship problem. Surely they have seen it and are familiar with its explicit and sometimes lurid content? Who could possibly think that exposing all the flaws in a relationship to millions of viewers would actually mend it? Many are clearly duped by the advertisement that calls for people to come forward who have relationship problems. The promotion that claims they will receive counselling before, during and after their appearance - clearly an attraction for some. Little do those responding know they will be eviscerated.
No topic is too intimate, personal or embarrassing to be opened up for scrutiny. This includes aspects of their psychological, physiological, emotional and social make-up. By the close of the show not only will their own fragile self be shredded, but they will likely have no standing among those who know them in their local community. The counselling seems to be no more than a telephone call, according to former participants who have now come forward.
Examples of what goes on in the Kyle show include discussions about their fragmented relationships, their truthfulness, including lie detector tests, the results of which are published on air, the minutiae of their sexual intimacies and their problems with anger, depression, self-harm and so the list goes on.
This apparent tragedy is not the first time that people have died by suicide following appearances on such confessional shows. Two 'Love Island' participants have died reportedly in similar fashion, one just a few weeks ago. These shows are no better than the 'freak show' common circuses in the early 1900s when bearded women and people with growth problems were paraded before a curious audience. The public used also visit the mental asylum known as Bedlam in London to see and laugh at insanity. This was captured in the paintings of Hogarth.
Shows like the 'Jeremy Kyle Show' may be produced in glitzy, high-tech studios, but the result is an emotional bloodletting comparable to the gladiators fighting in the Colosseum in ancient Rome.