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Mary Cruse

Marketing And Communications Executive

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TV Review: World’s maddest job interview

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According to the mental health charity Mind, one in four people suffer from some form of mental health issue. 

This means that almost all of us, either directly, indirectly or by proxy, will experience psychological illness within our lifetimes.
 
The problem is, however, that of those who choose to disclose mental ill-health to their employer, one in five will lose their jobs. This is because a quarter of all bosses view people suffering from conditions such as anxiety, depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder as less reliable, while 40% consider them to pose a significant risk.
 
Last week, Channel 4’s ‘World’s Maddest Job Interview’ sought to explore how mental health issues manifested themselves in the workplace and whether it was possible to identify sufferers. A group of 10 people, seven of whom had experienced various mental health challenges, were given a series of psychological and employment-related tasks.
 
Their behaviour was observed by a panel of three employers who were looking to select the three most employable individuals within the group, and a team of psychologists who were seeking to identify signs of any mental disorders.
 
The process revealed the near impossibility of identifying signs of mental illness simply from a prospective candidate’s behaviour. Even the team of trained psychologists struggled – they identified only four of the sufferers correctly.
 
The employers found it even more difficult to get it right. Among their top three job candidates, every individual suffered from a debilitating psychological condition.
 
Debbie had struggled with bulimia for 32 years; Amy had experienced obsessive compulsive disorder so severely that she was unable to leave her house for seven months, while Jo had been suicidally depressed for much of her adult life.
 
Reviewer’s rating
 
The programme was based on a fascinating and troubling premise – prejudice towards people with mental health issues is widespread in the UK. The show sought to prove both how many people suffer with poor mental health, and how capable they are – despite their conditions.
 
However, there were elements of ‘World’s Maddest Job Interview’ that seemed to sit poorly with the serious and thought-provoking subject matter. The clue is in the title. As part of Channel 4’s mental health season, ‘Channel 4 Goes Mad‘, the programme was, at times, peculiarly insensitive about the problems relating to poor mental health.
 
Each of the participants had already appeared on either reality TV or game shows, ostensibly to prove that ‘mad’ people walk unknown amongst us. But their quasi-celebrity status and the competitive tasks that they were asked to perform gave the programme a light-entertainment feel.
 
This situation was not helped by the disused factory setting, jarring, blurry camera shots and incremental blasts of static noise, all of which combined to have the programme take on more of an appearance of A Level Media Studies coursework.
 
While the show was compassionate at times, it also contained some worrying elements. The use of pop-psychology was frustrating as were the voyeuristic undertones. The ‘mad’ delegates were put through stressful tasks, and then judged on their personality and capability.
 
Ethical questions
 
But there are inevitably ethical questions that must be asked about exposing people with fragile mental health to this level of scrutiny.
 
For example, one judge said that Ben, whose severe OCD had led to his being sectioned, had seen his personal “strengths revealed as an illusion”. This approach was reminiscent of shows such as ‘Big Brother’ or ‘The X Factor’, in which a series of individuals are publicly judged in front of the nation.
 
But the programme also raised important questions about prevalent attitudes towards mental health. The people who took part in the programme and revealed their personal struggles to the world should be commended for their bravery.
 
But the show seemed confused over the message that it wished to convey. Although it claimed to be raising awareness of mental health matters, the unsophisticated style, the game show structure and the unfortunate use of the word ‘mad’ made the viewing experience more akin to watching reality television or an old-fashioned freak show.
 
Illuminating and moving, World’s Maddest Job Interview did succeed in raising some significant issues. But the clumsy combination of contemplative subject matter and a gauche, light-entertainment style caused the programme to appear erratic and disjointed.
 
Therefore, it failed to reach its potential – perhaps because, ultimately, it appeared to have somewhat of a split personality.
 
  • Our reviewer this time was Mary Cruse, a marketing and communications executive.
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Mary Cruse

Marketing And Communications Executive

Read more from Mary Cruse
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