'The X Factor could cause mental problems’ warns leading mental health expert
IT MAY be our most popular television programme, but The X Factor has been accused of risking mental illness among some of its contestants by distinguished mental health campaigner Marjorie Wallace.
The chief executive of Sane, the mental health charity, says the talent show created by Simon Cowell is “playing fast and loose with people’s minds”.
“It is like 'conditioning experiments’ that took place in the Sixties on animals to see what combination of reward and punishment would drive them crazy. These reality programmes are in some ways repeating these outlawed experiments and this isn’t psychological research, it is entertainment.”
Wallace, a sometime companion of the Earl of Snowdon, is aware of the example of Ceri Rees, a tone-deaf widow, who was rejected four times in six years on The X Factor. Rees, 54, was subjected to several minutes of humiliation after her latest audition.
“Producers need to take responsibility for the potential consequences,” says Wallace. “Things known to precipitate mental illness are feelings of failure to meet expectations of ourselves and others, and social rejection. It can be a trigger to potentially depressive illnesses. The public has a role to play and is slowly realising that it also demeans the spectator.”
She adds: “We don’t believe that people with mental illness should not take part — they should have their chance — but if it is humiliating it should not be broadcast.”
A spokesman for The X Factor says its producer, Talkback Thames, "has long experience of dealing with members of the public who chose to audition to be on entertainment shows".
The spokesman adds: "The welfare of our contestants is always of paramount importance to us and we work with them to provide what help is needed."