CFP: Articles About Mental Illnesses in Reality Television for Book Project

deadline for submissions: 
June 15, 2024
full name / name of organization: 
Angelica Cabral, San Francisco State University
contact email: 

The pandemic brought a lot of changes to the structure of American society. COVID-19 was a disabling pandemic, leaving many people with severe health issues that they didn’t have pre-pandemic and which now affect their daily life. And when it comes to mental illness, the pandemic threw some of us into the realization that loneliness, depression, anxiety, etc. are more prevalent than we thought. This issue was so prominent in the minds of health officials, that the Surgeon General released a report on this new loneliness epidemic. Reality television has not typically been a place for nuanced discussions about anything, but the representation we’ve seen has improved a lot in the past decade, from a “finalist” talking about his depression on The Bachelorette to differently abled contestants on a variety of shows. And, it’s worth noting, that with the popularity and large audience of the genre, sometimes these shows can be the first time someone sees themselves represented or learns about a different type of person. 


I am seeking abstracts for potential articles for a book project that will be themed around representations of mental illnesses/disorders/disabilities in reality television. Some potential topics are listed below to help spur ideas! 


Please submit a 300 word abstract and 100 word bio by June 15, 2024 to Once abstracts have been received, a full proposal will be submitted to the interested publisher (McFarland & Company) by July 15, 2024 and if accepted, essays/papers will be due by the end of October 2024. 


Possible areas for discussion include:    

  • How men with disabilities are depicted versus women with disabilities 

  • Desirability politics in relation to dating shows and the typical uplifting of one specific body type (white, straight, skinny, able bodied). 

  • Less sanitized depictions of mental illness, such a portrayals of what could probably be labeled Obsessive Compulsive Disorder on shows like My Strange Addiction

  • Shows that focus on a specific disorder, like The OCD project

  • How reality television portrayals of mental illness fit into the larger conversation about mental health, especially post-COVID and acknowledging the push by many for society to be more accepting 

  • How representation of mental illnesses on reality television shows and how that may affect public perception 

  • Mental illness “influencers” and/or how reality television contestants have used a newfound platform to discuss their mental health  

  • How appearing on reality television can cause or worsen mental illness, such as on camera emotional breakdowns on Love Is Blind

  • How certain shows, especially marriage oriented ones like The Bachelor, force contestants to reveal their trauma (notably a contestant on Tayshia’s season of The Bachelorette told her about his suicide attempt) 


Special issue editor: Angelica Cabral, Women and Gender Studies MA student at San Francisco State University.

Editor Bio: Angelica Cabral is in her first year of the Women and Gender Studies Master’s program at San Francisco State University, with a focus on studying internet culture and social media as they intersect with gender and sexuality. Alongside being a student, she is the Development and Communications Manager for a youth focused nonprofit. In February she presented at the 2024 Southwest Popular/American Culture Association. Her paper was titled “Hot Girls Have IBS: An analysis of the use of meme culture to cope with an illness primarily affecting women.” Her writing has appeared in Mother Jones, Slate, The Objective, and more.