From the Chief Executive, July 2019

Sarb Bajwa writes.

The contribution which psychology and our members make to diverse areas of our society are covered extensively in these pages each month, and we saw one practical application of psychological understanding hit the headlines recently.

Unfortunately it took the tragic death of Steve Dymond, who had recently taken part in filming for ITV’s The Jeremy Kyle Show, to bring the standard of psychological care given to participants in reality television shows to the forefront of the public consciousness.

We’ve been thinking about this issue for some time, and were able to react quickly to the news by launching our guidelines for production companies and television producers. John Oates, a psychologist who has extensive experience in this field and chairs our Media Ethics Advisory Group, was integral to the production of these guidelines and I hope that his tireless work will lead to significantly improved practices in the industry.

This group also provides guidance to producers who do get in touch with the Society seeking our help to make their shows psychologically sound, and it is important that this work is able to reach a wider audience through the guidelines.

Human interest stories have been popular since long before reality television, but the format has grown in an era when we also have a far more developed understanding of mental health, and how exposure to the court of public opinion can affect people, particularly when they are not sufficiently briefed, and not given appropriate care by companies which earn a significant amount of money from their appearances.

The new series of another ITV show, Love Island, will prove to be an important test of the commitment to providing the right support for people taking part. There have been two deaths of former contestants on the show in the last couple of years, and the producers have pledged to offer a much-improved level of support on this year’s show. I hope that proves to be the case and that the reality television industry begins to prioritise the duty of care it has to its guests above entertaining the public at all costs.

Our AGM is coming up in Leicester on 19 July, and you will have a flyer with this issue inviting you to attend. I just want to take the opportunity to reiterate that invitation or, if you are unable to make it, to get in touch with me with any questions or suggestions.

- Sarb Bajwa is Chief Executive of the British Psychological Society. [email protected]

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