Saturday, 11 July 2009

Next 'I'm a Celebrity' to be set in Whitehall

[Then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith with the necessary celebrities launch a consultation]

It is a bad sign of the health of evidence-based policy making when the Government employs an academic on the basis of their IMDB profile. Almost as embarrassing as Gordon Brown phoning Simon Cowell to find out how Susan Boyle is doing, back in March the Home Office employed Dr Linda Papadopoulos to carry out a study into the sexualisation of girls in British society.

Now I’m not saying Dr Linda (as she likes to be known) is a bad person, I just don’t think she is the right person to be advising the government on this aspect of social policy. The research into violence against women in the UK is extensive leading to an understanding of the ‘continuum of violence against women and girls’ and policy outcomes such as the integrated strategy on violence against women (which exists in Scotland and is currently being consulted on in England).

This isn’t Dr Linda’s specialism. She seems in fact, far more comfortable as the resident psychologist on Big Brother, a regular on The Wright Stuff and Celebrity Fit Club and a general rent-a-quote ‘Celebrity Psychiatrist’ (sic) on CNN, Sky News, Channel 5 news, ITN news and BBC breakfast. She has also written such weighty tomes as 'The Man Manual' and 'What Men Say, What Women Hear'.

Dr Linda also has a range of skincare products which include ‘smart nutrients’ which can “boost memory, reduce stress and even help cognitive ability”. These are moisturisers. But the range is called ╬ĘDerma [Psy-Derma]. Geddit? She’s a PSY-chologist who’s peddling moisturiser which makes them like, er, psychological moisturisers.

The range includes:
  • Cleansing Thoughts Foaming Cleanser – ‘Foaming cleanser & detoxifier to wash away the stress of the day’
  • Intensive Therapy Facial Serum – ‘Profound stress relief serum for unhappy skin’ (£30 for 15ml)
Now as I said, I don’t think Dr Linda is a bad person and a lot of her advice about women needing to boost their self esteem and not be body-obsessed is all well and good. What I do have a problem with is the Government’s use of pop-psychologists to advise on social policy and Dr Linda’s use of women’s self-esteem issues to sell over-priced moisturiser to them on the basis that it will in itself help deal with stress and anxiety.

Dr Linda is getting dangerously close to misusing her ‘Dr’ title. And its not good clinical practice to speculate on the psychology of anyone on TV. As the fabulous Dr Petra Boynton said at a recent talk: “I wouldn’t comment on a celebrity’s mental state if they were my patient as that would be unethical and I wouldn’t comment if they weren’t my patient as I would have no idea what I was talking about.”

Wise words. I would also add: psychologists should think deeply about giving academic legitimacy to the exploitation of or intrusion into any individual's mental health issues for TV.

Thanks to Heather for drawing this to my attention.

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