Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares contestant Joseph Cerniglia committed suicide last week — and three experts tell HollywoodLife.com how being on reality TV could have tragically led the 39-year-old chef to kill himself
Joseph Cerniglia is the second chef from one of Gordon Ramsay’s high-intensity reality TV shows to commit suicide; he joins a long line of reality stars who’ve both attempted and succeeded at ending their lives. HollywoodLife.com consulted with two psychologists and a psychiatrist who explain how the added pressures from being thrust into the spotlight can be enough to throw even the most stable person over the edge.
“The people who are already very balanced and mature can handle the attention and pressures of reality TV. Unfortunately, these are the least likely people to be chosen to be on the show because they are the most boring,” Los Angeles-based media psychiatrist and reality TV show commentator Dr. Carole Lieberman explains.
She adds, “Producers want people who are going to be unpredictable and very emotional — the less stable the better — in terms of getting higher ratings…but this backfires, such as in suicide attempts.”
However, Joseph — who took his life by jumping off the George Washington Bridge in NYC Sept. 24 — didn’t seem crazy when he appeared on Kitchen Nightmares in 2007. If anything, the 39-year-old restaurant owner and chef was simply overwhelmed trying to bail his family and Italian restaurant out of debt.
Los Angeles-based psychologist and attorney Dr. Sheila H. Forman says being surrounded by reality show cameras compounds everyday stress, making even the smallest hurdles that much harder to overcome.
“Reality TV is a very high stress and pressure-filled environment for most participants,” she says, explaining, “Most of us can take some time away and decompress. We can find time to be alone and recover from our day’s trials. Reality stars rarely have that advantage, and as a consequence, may not be able to find the peace and balance they need to maintain a healthy state of mind.”
Joseph’s restaurant, Campania, which is located in Fair Lawn, New York, seemingly turned itself around after the visit from Gordon Ramsey. However, Southern California-based psychologist Dr. Robert Puff says even the success from Kitchen Nightmares might have negatively impacted Joseph’s emotional well-being.
“The effects from reality TV can be positive, but they are not permanent,” he says. “After huge accomplishments, we get really depressed. You think this big event will make you happy and then it happens…and you’re still not happy. What do you do then? You can get severely depressed.”
Needless to say, something — whether it was appearing on Kitchen Nightmares or just the everyday pressures of being a working dad — led Joseph to feel his life wasn’t worth living.
So, so sad.