Wednesday, January 21, 2009

BBC Radio 4: State of Mind

State of Mind is a series on BBC Radio 4 that traces the history of mental health treatment in the UK since the 1950s. There have been three episodes so far: Total Institution, Altered States, and Community Care? I was particularly impressed by the second show, Altered States, which in its discussion of antipsychiatry and critical psychiatry. There were clips from an old intereviewith R.D. Laing, and then it had an interview with Phil Thomas, (pictured), co-author of Postpsychiatry, and he talked about his involvement with Sharing Voices (Bradford). Radio 4 already has one long running show that focuses on mental health issues, All in the Mind, and its Science section has in recent years had many other programs that focus on psychology and mental health. It also has programs that address medical ethics: Inside the Ethics Committee is nearly all medical ethics and The Moral Maze often looks at medical/psychological issues. Many other programs on Radio 4 give a reasonably thorough discussion of controversies in psychiatry and psychology.

Apart from admiration for the work of Radio 4, this also highlights the lack of thorough and sustained investigation of such issues by radio stations in the USA. NPR and affiliated companies like American Public Radio pale in comparison with their coverage of these issues. The bulk of their coverage is in short items on their daily news shows, and then interviews (and phone-ins) with authors promoting their new books. It is disappointing that there isn't more room for coverage of new developments in psychology and mental health on public radio. The main show that addressed these issues was The Infinite Mind, which seems to be on hiatus now -- and I have never lived in an area where the public radio stations actually broadcast it.

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