Get me a mentally ill celebrity

The New Statesman has an interesting article by a press officer from one of the UK’s biggest mental health charities describing how press stories are put together and why it’s almost impossible to get any media interest without a ‘mentally ill celebrity’.

But there’s the rub. Shouldn’t we want to hear about these issues anyway? Do we really need to look to the stars? I started “selling” this campaign to journalists armed with a raft of compelling stories of real-life discrimination – the experienced business analyst who, after six months off with depression, made 150 job applications before an employer would give him a chance; the singer barred from joining a choir because she had had schizophrenia; the Cambridge graduate refused a chance to train as a teacher because of a history of mental health problems.

They’re interesting stories, emblematic of a stigma that still surrounds mental illness, and they matter to a great many people: one in four of us will have a mental health problem at some stage. And journalists know it. “Wow, yes, that is very interesting,” they say. “It’s dreadful, isn’t it? I know someone that happened to, actually, but . . . I was wondering if you could get me Mel C, y’know, Sporty Spice? Or Ruby Wax? Or, even better, do you have any new celebs who’ve had problems in the past?”

Link to New Statesman piece ‘Get me Sporty Spice’.

5 Comments

  1. StunnedMullet
    Posted March 20, 2009 at 4:06 am | Permalink

    ..which, by the way, is why we’re here reading your blog and not the newspaper. Because we couldn’t give a rats arse about Sporty Spice’s opinion on these matters, and we much prefer informed opinion complete with live links to the hard detailed facts.
    And then they wonder why the main stream media is imploding…

  2. Posted March 20, 2009 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    Newspapers report the news they think will sell. Celebrities sell. It’s up to people to start buying stories about regular folks.

  3. Posted March 20, 2009 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    Hey Vaughan,
    Talking of celebrities and mental health, here’s a TV interview with a person who may (or may not) be suffering with some mental health problems at the moment. See if you make the same diagnosis as me (a ridiculous thing to do, from watching someone on TV, I know).

    However, this has not stopped another TV doctor from doing just that:
    http://blogs.psychcentral.com/celebrity/2009/03/dr-dobransky-thinks-joaquin-phoenix-could-be-schizophrenic/
    Whilst I suspect the psychiatrist in question might be right, its another of those TV psychologist/psychiatrist issues we talked about.
    In general, its good when mental health issues are brought into the public domain, even though it can take seeing a famous celebrity being affected in order to make it happen. However, there is the risk of it being seen as a joke, or being morbidly voyeuristic (think Britney Spears).
    As someone who suffers with depression myself, I have a personal interest in these issues, as well as a professional one.
    Tom

  4. Landover Baptist Church
    Posted March 22, 2009 at 4:15 am | Permalink

    Lilian Nattel, that may be true in large cities. In small towns, newspaper sell more when they have local “human interest” type stories in the paper. Don’t forget, people like to read about themselves, too. ;)

  5. Landover Baptist Church
    Posted March 22, 2009 at 4:16 am | Permalink

    Lilian Nattel, that may be true in large cities. In small towns, newspaper sell more when they have local “human interest” type stories in the paper. Don’t forget, people like to read about themselves, too. ;)


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