by MHF contributing blogger Caroline Meister
One of my guilty pleasures is watching reality television, especially the Real Housewives franchise. I know these women are ridiculous and I know that they are not role models in any sense; however, some people who watch these types of shows look to these women for guidance.
I was watching a spinoff of the Real Housewives franchise, called “Ladies of London”, which is on Bravo. One character was discussing her recent struggles with staying sober, as she had struggled with alcoholism on and off throughout her adult life. One of the other women asked her when she realized she had to quit drinking, and her response was, “When I tried to commit suicide.” Another one of the ladies at the table looked disgusted. I immediately when from cleaning my room with the TV on for background noise to completely engulfed.
They cut to an interview with the woman who had looked disgusted. She began to tear up, discussing how much she valued life and how could she never leave her two kids willingly because she loved them too much. I began to prickle, knowing that she was barking up the wrong tree, whether intentionally or not. The camera switched back to real time, and she blurts out that she thinks suicide is selfish in front of the woman had struggled with alcohol addiction.
I stopped watching after that, I was so angry. People who struggle with mental illnesses are not selfish. They do not leave their family and friends behind because they do not love them. They leave them behind because they feel like they would not be missed or the only way to make their loved ones happy is to remove themselves from their life. Suicide is anything but selfish. Suicide is one of the saddest acts in the world, and how dare someone belittle it along with mental illnesses.
It saddens me that this woman does not understand mental illnesses. It also encourages me to continue to do what I do, to try and educate others about the real form of mental illness, to erase the stigma. I ask that the housewife considers what she said, considers that she has a large audience who might look to her for guidance and advice in their life. Unfortunately, anyone watching the show now has her incorrect and uneducated view on mental illness.
This is why mental health education is so important. Stigma exists. It might not be possible to erase it completely, but that’s not going to stop me and other mental health advocates from working tirelessly to erase its lasting effects on our society.