Observations Medicine and the Media

The rise of the pop psychologists

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e3541 (Published 29 May 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e3541
  1. Margaret McCartney, general practitioner, Glasgow
  1. margaret{at}margaretmccartney.com

The media seem to have no problem finding psychiatrists and psychologists to comment on anything from celebrity behaviour on so called reality shows to whether Anders Breivik is sane. But is this good for public understanding of mental health, asks Margaret McCartney

Soundbites, opinion, and statements from experts are integral to many newspaper stories and magazine television programmes. Psychological and psychiatric comment is often sought, be it for a morning television programme featuring the motivations of celebrities or whether Anders Breivik, the Norwegian on trial for mass murder, is sane.

Informed debate and information sharing necessitate that healthcare expertise should be used. But what is appropriate for healthcare professionals to comment on and what type of comment promotes a better understanding of mental health?

So called celebrity psychology—used to explain or discuss behaviour—is burgeoning in the entertainment industry and is central to many reality television shows. Emma Kenny, who has a psychology degree and is a member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, says on her website that she has been “resident psychologist” on many television shows. On ITV’s This Morning she appeared with Samantha Brick, who had written an article stating that she was disliked by many women because she was attractive. In the discussion Kenny said, “If, as a person, everywhere I go, I am met with a certain reaction from people . …

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