Over the years, in the wee hours on slow shifts or due to lingering occupational insomnia, I’ll catch a few minutes of one of the various “reality” shows, always adding adding prayers of gratitude that I’m neither marrying a “Bridezilla” or named “Kardashian.” One of my favorites in recent years was of course, “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.” Taking the cast of B-list misfits, reliables like Gary Busey and MacKenzie phillips, and mixing them in with models-in-angst, a Baldwin or two, and Jeff Conaway was hilarious for a sick sense of humor like mine. And no, I don’t apologize for it. In one episode I remember a strung out blonde flopping on to the floor in apparent seizures, prompting a big hullabaloo and being a great bumper promo. The show was a joke, probably designed by B-list managers to relaunch faded stars, while burnishing the shine of the host, Dr. Drew Pinsky.
The blonde flopping on the floor was one Mindy McCready, dead by her own hand yesterday at age 37. After repeated suicide attempts, overdoses, chemical and (apparently, sexual) addictions, the fifth of Dr. Drew’s celebrity rehab patients has died. Dr. Drew said, “When I heard she was struggling, I did reach out to her and urged her to go to take care of herself, get in a facility if she felt she needed.” Good advice, that.
Do I blame Pinsky for the deaths of McCready, Conaway, Rodney King, et al? Of course not. Every day many of us that are practicing clinicians come face to face with mental illness. These patients present on a spectrum ranging from despair beyond description, to utter, melodramatic bullshit that clogs up ER’s and clinics with the worried well and the annoying, leaving less time, energy, and compassion for those with serious problems.
There is nothing sadder than real depression, nothing scarier than the flat affect of an imminent suicide, or the screams of a manic break that I have stared in the face during a busy shift. I’m no psychiatrist, but I do know that addictions and real underlying Axis I disorders need treatment that is serious, thoughtful, and private. Even if in group therapy, like the hard work done in 12-step programs, the grinding, wrenching work to get better is not being pursued seriously if it is performed as a public spectacle. And if such work is not performed seriously, then it is not being done at all, to the great danger of that patient which is afflicted by more than a slow movie or singing career.
In recent days, another celebu-doc has come in for deserved criticism on this blog. And while that criticism is more than deserved, I’m giving Drew Pinsky my nomination as “Dr.Douche” of the year.