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A: The intrusion of your private life by gossip thirsty no marks and shameless sensationalisation of your mental illness.

And so I begin my first blog with a scathing rant. But I feel this is a good place to start. I sat down in front of the TV last night, and in a moment of boredom flicked on to MTV.I saw that the programmeKerry Katona: What’s the Problem? was just about to start. I knew the programme was a reality show based on Kerry Katona and her battle with bipolar disorder, and being interested in mental health issues, I tuned in.

I had one of the most uncomfortable viewing experiences ever. From the outset the programme angered me, but as is the case with most reality TV there was that strange X factor (pardon the pun!!) that kept me watching. This X factor is what keeps the MTV generation happy and passive- the minutiae of celebrities’ private lives.

The programme is produced in such a way that Katona’s illness is both sensationalised and devauled. The sound of doors slamming is amplified as Katona and her husband argue. Close up shots of her children listening in to Katona swearing add to the sense of unrest. Editing means that Kerry is constantly shown either buoyed by mania or gripped by depression. Furthermore, the use of music in the programme is absolutely disgraceful. Razorlight’s jaunty¬†Before I Fall to Pieces soundtracks one of Katona’s low points. If that wasn’t cringeworthy and inappropraite enough, the ‘fairground waltz to signify mental illness’ is employed frequently when Katona is behaving manically.

I couln’t help but feel sorry for Katona. She is trapped within the confines of her own house by a TV camera poised and ready to capture Kerry’s latest breakdown and a cesspit* of paparazzi urging her to act out. The viewers of this show are nothing more than paying entrants to MTV’s very own zoo, which features its very own mentally ill former girlband member. “Look Mummy she drinks too much! And look at all those cigarettes she smokes! And what about her funny moods!”.

North One Television, the production company responsible for the programme, handle the issue of Kerry’s illnes completely wrongly. Instead of choosing to educate and inform the audience, the makers of the programme opt for scandal and flashpoints. For a more accurate and informative study of bipolar disorder, the BBC’S The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive is much better.

Now you may say that people don’t tune in to such programmes to be educated about mental illness. But in a mediascape where mental health is only just emerging, such programmes may be young people’s only way of learning about mental illness. It is vital that MTV redresses the balance and starts to educate as well as to entertain.

However, earlier last night I watched an excellent BBC programme called Tourette’s: I Swear I Can’t Help It. The programme documented the lives of two Tourette’s sufferers, John and Greg and how they dealed with their problems. Funny, sensitive and with a lightness of touch, this is how television programmes should approach mental health issues. I found myself close to tears at some points in the programme as intimate insights into the condition were presented and the participants spoke from their hearts about their difficulties. There were funny moments too. I wasn’t laughing at John and Greg but with them, as they both recognised the humour that accompanies some of their tics.

Reality TV is simply the wrong format to explore mental illness. We have already seen the effect it can have on vulnerable people, for example Susan Boyle’s descent into mental illness. It’s about time TV producers adopted a more measured approach to the topic, and one can only hope that more documentaries and educational programmes recieve funding and reality shows are consigned to TV’s own Room 101.

* Cesspit is probably NOT the official OED approved collective noun for paparazzi.