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The Spectator Podcast: Overdosed

22 March 2018

1:37 PM

22 March 2018

1:37 PM

On this week’s episode, we discuss the state of mental health in this country, and whether doctors are all too happy to prescribe medication as the miracle solution to mental illnesses. We also ask what on earth is the deal with Cambridge Analytica, and commemorate the death of the world’s last male northern white rhino.

Is medication the answer to our mental health crisis? Studies show that the British are among the most depressed in the world. But, in this week’s cover, Angela Patmore writes that doctors rely on pills too much and overlook their terrible side-effects, including behaving aggressively towards oneself and others. Isabel Hardman, who presents the podcast, has written about those side-effects in her own piece for the magazine this week. Simon Wessely, Professor of Psychiatry at King’s College London, joins Isabel and Angela for a lively debate. Angela tells the podcast:

‘I think we’re missing a very important point here… If you take the patient information leaflet out of the packet… it says in there: “If you are depressed or have anxiety disorders, you can sometimes have thoughts of harming or killing yourself. These may be increased when first starting anti-depressants.’


This week serious questions were raised over the power of Facebook, as a series of exposés uncovered the way in which political consultancy Cambridge Analytica used mass data to Trump’s benefit in 2016. In this week’s magazine, Jamie Bartlett, Director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media for Demos, writes that Cambridge Analytica is just the tip of the iceberg. He joins us with journalist James Ball, who debunks the myths surrounding this tech in the New Statesman this week. Jamie tells us:

‘If everybody receives personalised messages about the one thing that they care about and they receive a message from a politician about exactly that, in some kind of private advertisement… what is the public sphere anymore? Everybody is just receiving different and sometimes maybe even contradictory messages about politics. And how do you even hold politics to account when that is the case? I think this opens up much more fundamental questions about how we run politics in future.’

On Monday, Sudan, the world’s last male northern white rhino passed away. Aidan Hartley, our correspondent in Kenya, was the only journalist who saw Sudan in his final moments. Aidan writes about his reflections upon witnessing the extinction of a species, and joins us for the podcast. On whether or not new scientific breeding programmes could have helped the northern white rhino, Aidan tells the podcast:

‘British dog owners spend 10.6 billion pounds a year on dogs, but we could only raise 60,000 pounds for Sudan and his two females. And that seems pathetic. So, why is it important? One of the reasons is because science could have achieved a successful result, and I think that would have been a redemption for all of us.’

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