Mental Health: Turn Off TV News, Instead Read it

Suzette Standring
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Relentless negativity sends me into fetal-position sadness and defeat. How about you? Our “new normal” is abnormal. For positive mental health, turn off TV news.

Instead, read the news. It gives you more control of what you’re taking in, according to Dr. Daniela Gitlin, author of Practice, Practice, Practice: This Psychiatrist’s Life.  

In her 30+ years of practice in New York state, she sees an uptick in stress, much of it produced from the news, which she describes as “confusing, frightening and untrustworthy, leading to a worsening of symptoms.”

Personally, I can only stomach so much TV coverage but I feel guilty.  Am I choosing to be lazy and uninformed? But speaking to Dr. Gitlin, I realized it’s not the news itself, but TV talking heads who unravel me.

She offered a way to stay informed and to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Her advice? It takes less time to read the news than to watch TV, and readers can cherry-pick what interests them. Dr, Gitlin pointed out “subliminal manipulation” occurs often on TV, such as tone of voice, body language, choice of visuals, even clothing can be distracting as well as designed to influence the watcher.

For example, Fox commentator Tucker Carlson serves up propaganda, not news. When sued for slander in 2020, Fox News’ lawyers argued that Carlson regularly engages in exaggeration and that viewers cannot take him literally. U.S. District Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil ruled in Carlson’s favor. He is not factual and he doesn’t have to be. It’s just entertainment.

Then Fox News, if not required to be truthful and accurate, should be rebranded Fox Entertainment, and Dr. Gitlin feels this is a classic example of misinformation and subliminal manipulation.

Clearly, such “entertainment” deepens our national divide. Viewers often take as fact anything said by a perceived authority, such as a commentator. On TV, most of what passes for news is actually opinion, and it is much harder to tell the difference among its hosts.

But when reading reliable on-line or print sources, it is easier to differentiate opinion columnists from news stories. Note: Facebook is not trustworthy because its algorithms send viewers to other sources similar to their interests, which does not broaden or diversify information. 

“This decreases how informed a viewer is,” said Dr. Gitlin.

More often I hear friends say, “I don’t watch the news anymore.” 

Regain balance by reading the news. It actually takes less time.  

Control your stress level and bypass the emotionalism that TV commentary uses to boost ratings.

Most importantly, protect your refuge and relationships. One may be a TV news junkie and the other may need escape from too much exposure. The blare of inflammatory views on TV can spark personal arguments on a regular basis.  I’ve seen this friction cause a breaking point in marriages and friendships.  Haven’t you?

Peace on earth? Not likely, but you can create more calm in your own home.

Delete the pollution chatter and turn off TV news.

The Patriot Ledger, September 24, 2021 

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