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  5. Bigg Boss and mental health: How reality show affects contestants and audience watching it | EXCLUSIVE

Bigg Boss and mental health: How reality show affects contestants and audience watching it | EXCLUSIVE

Bigg Boss contestants on multiple occasions have mentioned how the show journey can get mentally draining. This makes us one wonder -- can the show affect someone's mental health and if so to what extent? India TV got in touch with BB 15 housemates and a psychiatrist to probe more.

Vaishali Jain Written by: Vaishali Jain
New Delhi Updated on: January 19, 2022 15:22 IST
Bigg Boss 15
Image Source : COLORS TV

Bigg Boss 15

Highlights

  • Is the Bigg Boss journey mentally stressful?
  • Why Bigg Boss contestants exhibit such behaviour?
  • Can the show have long-lasting impact on mental health of contestants and the audience watching it?

A reality show contestant suffers multiple panic attacks. Other participants mock their need for psychiatric help. Someone else whines about emotional breakdown and childhood trauma after stepping into the controversial Bigg Boss house. In Bigg Boss 15, yet again, mental health became a topic of discussion when singer Afsana Khan held a knife in her hand during an argument with fellow contestants. While she was evicted from the show after this incident, housemates continued to talk about her health issues. Week after week, year after year, the audience has seen contestants serve their quirks, insecurities, and often instabilities for voyeuristic pleasure and TV ratings.

Bigg Boss contestants on multiple occasions have mentioned how the show journey can get mentally draining. This makes us one wonder -- can the show affect someone's mental health and if so to what extent? India TV got in touch with BB 15 housemates and Dr Pallavi Arvind Joshi, Consultant - Psychiatrist, Manipal Hospital, Varthur Road, Bengaluru to probe more.

"The audience may feel this is a drama but when you go inside the house and you have no one around, things do get difficult," Afsana Khan confessed after her eviction from the reality show. 

"The ones who supported me know how the house functions. Things appear easy when you are outside but how we conduct ourselves there is very different. So much is going on in our minds. I wasn't well emotionally and the housemates used that against me. I did not intend to hurt myself or anyone there. I was just irritated with all the mental torture that I went through," she said.

Is the Bigg Boss journey mentally stressful?

Afsana affirmed. "It is (stressful). You're far from your family and loved ones plus there is a pressure of the 'game' and trust in someone can break very easily."

Echoing similar sentiments, Uttaran fame Rashami Desai, who has been a part of the show on multiple occasions, shared that Bigg Boss has been stressful for her too. She spoke to us before entering the reality show as a wildcard this year. "The entire journey of Bigg Boss was very stressful for me. It was more difficult to handle because I was the only contestant who was going through a lot and no one stood by me. Everybody was just making fun of me."

Why Bigg Boss contestants exhibit such behaviour?

Explaining the reasons, Dr Pallavi compares the living conditions of the show participants with prisoners. She says, "Humans are social animals and they can't be isolated. We all have faced such issues during the lockdown. Now, add the pressure of the game there. It gets worse as they have no means of entertainment coupled with stress. In such a situation, emotions that are deep inside come out. It's a regular thing, happens with people who are in prison too." 

She adds that when there is no outlet for emotions and when one keeps hearing negative things about themselves, it starts affecting and triggering people. "In a confined environment when there is hostility, triggers can operate badly. In such a situation, past trauma can come to the surface."

Devoleena Bhattacharjee, who also entered Bigg Boss 15 as a wildcard contestant along with Rashami, opened up on going through a mental breakdown in the previous season. While she didn't want to repeat what happened in BB 14, she knows it is inevitable. "I don't want to repeat what happened inside the house. But when you're too full of emotions and alone in the house and there's nobody to explain or share all of it with, it's natural to have a breakdown. Many times, we remind ourselves not to cry and be strong else the audience might consider us 'weak'. In that instance, it's hard to understand that it's very important to share what you're feeling so that you don't reach that breakdown stage. But it's difficult to execute this," the actress said before she stepped into the house.

Rashami also said that instead of being tormented by the stress and humiliation she used it as her strength. However, Dr Pallavi differs. She says the contestants may perceive that they come out stronger but in reality, it does affect them. Comparing the behaviour of men and women in the matter, she shared, "Women internalise their feelings and depression is seen months after because bullying and body shaming is not something most people take lightly. In the case of males, they can externalise their feelings in the form of anger but basic human nature doesn't change."  

Keeping one's sanity in such a situation is the 'real' task inside the house. 

"I cannot say that I could maintain my sanity level. There were times when I lost my temper and said some mean things which I shouldn't have. It happens with everyone. I try to maintain it but you do lose control," said Rashami.

Can the show have a long-lasting impact on the mental health of contestants and the audience watching it?

Dr Pallavi stresses that it can. "Public humiliation is very difficult to handle and not everyone is equipped to deal with it. Some could be, but some are certainly not. Therefore, celebrities who are doing the show can face issues. Now, when we talk about the audience, people who watch it regularly, immediately start relating with the participants. Naturally, their aggression comes as a part of the routine. Many parents have said that teenagers who watch these reality shows, pick up the language and even become less sensitive to aggression."