Review: World's Maddest Job Interview
Channel 4 has done a lot of questionable things in the past (two words: Big Brother). This year however they are undertaking, in my mind, one of the most positive campaigns to grace our televisions. Supported by the organisations Mind, Time To Change and Rethink Mental Illness, Channel 4 have embarked on a new 'Mad World' series which aims to challenge people’s perceptions of, and reduce stigma against, those with mental health issues.
Though to some extent I questioned the sensitivity of the “mad” titling of the shows, I take my hat off to Channel 4, as to see people with mental health issues portrayed so positively on television, beating out so many myths of the nature of these issues, is commendable. Of those affected by mental illness, one in five claim to have been eased out of jobs after disclosing their mental health history. In a bid to highlight how clearly wrong this prejudice is, Thursday evening saw the third programme in the series World’s Maddest Job Interview, in which eight volunteers undertook a series of tasks to compete for hypothetical job as judged by a panel of top class business owners. The twist to this show, however, was that some of the candidates had extensive and varied histories of mental illness undisclosed to the audience.
At the start of the show, the panel of judges read through the anonymous mental health histories of the candidates. These ranged from attempting suicide, having to be sectioned and sedated, having long term eating disorders, and being housebound for seven months due to obsessive compulsions. One of the panel, Claude Littner, actually admitted that if he was presented with this type information at interview he “would be sad for them and [he] would not employ them.” However, without the knowledge of who has what, the judges and psychologists observed the candidates undergoing various tasks of skills in the workplace aimed at pulling out overall first impressions, creative thinking, common sense, and leadership qualities. Finally, the panel chose which of the candidates they would be most likely to employ and much to the shock of the judges, and against their prior preconceptions, the final three candidates they chose all had a history of significant mental health problems.
The show provided great informative insight into common traits of different mental illnesses, from the overly logical mind of an OCD sufferer to a childlike mentality of a bulimia sufferer, and portrayed superbly how mental health issues can affect your day to day life. However, it also showed how the traits from such illness can be transformed through recovery in a positive way.
Overall, World’s Maddest Job Interview successfully illustrated that a label, especially that of a mental health label, does not define a person. That said, feedback from the show has been mixed, with some sufferers from mental health problems feeling the show trivialised the issues they face in order to win viewers, while others commend the show for opening these issues up to mainstream viewing.
With a Big Brother-meets-Apprentice feel about it, questionable CCTV-like camera shots and the tacky use of Countdown music, the execution of the show did, to some extent, devalue the underlying content, which was a real shame. However, though many may question the format of the show, I personally hope that to some of the audience, it has made them think more about the issues that those with mental health problems face in the workplace.
World's Maddest Job Interview is currently available on 4OD.