Are Reality Shows Killing Us? Death Toll Rises to 11


death by televisionWho among us hasn't uttered, "Will someone please shoot me if I watch the next installment of The Real Housewives?" While we may think our brain cells are in danger after marathon reality TV watching, that's nothing compared to the reality stars themselves.

With the recent discovery of Joseph Cerniglia's body in the Hudson river, the former Kitchen Nightmares chef brings the death-by-suicide toll to 11 former reality TV stars, with more attempts that were mercifully unsuccessful.

Is it the televised humiliation that leads to so many destroyed lives? Or are people drawn to reality television already saddled with mental health issues that, when under a microscope, can take a deadly turn? Regardless, it's frightening how this relatively new genre has produced so many people willing to take their own lives.

Here are the contestants that have tried to kill themselves, so far:

Rachel Brown

Now that Gordon Ramsay is being thrown some blame into Cerniglia's suicide, the suicide of a Hell's Kitchen contestant is being looked at as well. After being eliminated from Ramsay's reality show, the 41-year-old chef shot herself.

Fantasia Barrino

Luckily this American Idol star, who has gone on to a successful recording and stage career, was not successful in her suicide attempt earlier this year. A troubled past seemed to lead her to a desperate place, that she is determined to fight her way out of, for good. Good luck Fantasia.

Ryan Jenkins

After murdering his ex-wife, the Megan Wants a Millionaire star fled to Canada, where he hung himself in a motel room.

Paula Goodspeed

The obsessed fan and American Idol wannabe killed herself in front of Paul Abdul's house after a humiliating rejection during Idol auditions.

Tania Saha

Another would-be contestant that didn't make it onto the Indian reality show, Fatafati, Saha brought a bottle of poison with her to the audition. When she was rejected, she drank it. Luckily she did survive the attempt.

Danny Bonaduce

After downing Vicodin and vodka, Bonaduce essentially tried to kill himself on camera. His reality show Breaking Bonaduce turned into a sobering wake-up call for the addict, as his wife insisted all the ugliness be shown.

Jo O'Meara

Another celebrity attempt, Jo O'Meara appeared on Celebrity Big Brother in the UK (alongside Jade Goody, who passed away from cervical cancer) and came off looking like a racist. O'Meara places the blame for her attempted suicide-by-pills squarely on the shoulders of the CBS reality show.

Sinisa Savija

Mark Burnett's Swedish Survivor show, Expedition, was behind Savija's suicde, according to his wife. While Burnett denies this, the reality show king did begin psychological testing for contestants after Savija threw himself under a train after being voted off the show.

James Scott Terrill

A single dad trying to get his two young boys in shape on Supernanny went to his own father's grave and shot himself. Leaving two little boys motherless and fatherless.

Najai Turpin

A contestant for the boxing reality show, The Contender, Turpin shot himself weeks before the final match was to be filmed.

Nathan Clutter

A contestant on Paradise Hotel 2, the network initially said Clutter was killed in a climbing accident, but police say it is clear he jumped to his death.

Cheryl Kosewicz

Pirate Masters came and went on CBS, but left a lasting scar on a former deputy district attorney from Las Vegas who took her life two months after her boyfriend committed suicide. Cheryl posted on a fellow contestant's Facebook account that the "frik'n show doesn't help" as it was an issue between Kosewicz and her boyfriend.

Kelli McGee

In one of the saddest deaths in reality TV, the victim of suicide wasn't the contestant, it was her sister. Kelli McGee's sister Deleese Williams was to go on Extreme Makeover and McGee was encouraged to say negative things about her sister who had a deformed jaw and droopy eyelids. Extreme Makeover didn't follow through with the makeover, however, and the family was split after McGee's remarks were discovered, and Williams was dropped from the show hours before she was set to receive jaw surgery. She committed suicide four months later.

Carina Stephenson

The UK show, The Colony, lays claim to the youngest reality star suicide, as 17-year-old Carina Stephenson hung herself from a tree two weeks before the show was to air.

Is reality television to blame for these suicides?


Image via Beige Alert/Flickr

american idol, big brother, reality tv


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JenBr... JenBrooks76

I think we all know that reality shows are NOT 'reality'. People are encouraged to amp up the drama in order to amp up the ratings. Those who are interviewed for these should be made aware of this fact, not just when they initially join in, but on a regular basis. For more intense and competitive shows, yes maybe it is time to have psych evaluations before bringing someone on board. 

I do not lay blame on these so-called reality shows entirely...but they can start taking more responsibility for their contestants. Evaluations at the beginning are all good, but even the most level headed person can take a downward turn when things get rough and their perspective gets skewed. Counseling should be offered to those who get rejected whether they take it badly or not.

Proud... ProudSingleMum

Mental Illness is to blame. That or sheer stupidity. 

lucky... luckygirlyo

I work w these shows in a capacity-and my feeling is-who would actually do a reality show? The people cast clearly are people w a huge gaping need. These stories are horrific,though. I didn't realize.

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