01 December, 2009

I don't like TV Psychics

Once a week, on New Zealand magazine TV program Good Morning, psychic Sue Nicholson appears with a handful of emails to perform 'readings' for various viewers. 'Perform' is the key word here, because it is my opinion that she is merely performing and it is my opinion on her performance that I give here

Yesterday morning, she annoyed me. It doesn't take much for a charlatan to annoy me, but she was particularly annoying in this instance.

One caller (they're actually called by the station after they email in all their details) was told that her late niece was born just so that she could make the family happy for 16 years then die. In her defense she was trying to say that the family should celebrate the time they had with her, instead of mourning her passing, but it seemed quite insulting to the dead girl that she should be regarded as a thing for the enjoyment of the family, to die once her usefulness was fulfilled.

Maybe I'm reading between the lines here. It's something I like to think I avoid, but always end up doing, so I'll be a bit more careful.

A later caller had a relative who had committed suicide and was desperate to contact her. In what was an (I'm sure in the psychic's mind, a noble) attempt at stopping the bereaved woman from blaming herself, Nicholson told her that there was nothing she could do and, after telling her that it's harder for suicide victims (I use the term 'victim' very deliberately) to "cross over," but it's OK, because she has.

But what might seem an innocuous attempt at convincing a grieving lady to not blame herself, Nicholson actually told her that when someone is suicidal, they are in a very dark place and you cannot reach them. This set off my bullshit alarm.

She reiterated this about 2 times: When someone is suicidal, there is nothing you can do about it. That's not reading between the lines; that's effectively what she said.

As someone who has been suicidal and knows several others who are, this is the last thing that people need to be told. New Zealand is a country with high suicide rates. We've been dropping since the late 1990s, when major public health campaigns to remove the stigma and myth surrounding mental illness began. Statements like Nicholsons are false and damaging. Suicidal people can be reached and need to be reached. And to spout on about them being cloaked in some sort of impenetrable cloak of dark spirits is archaic and dangerous. It flys in the face of the last century of psychiatry and earlier forms of care tracing back to medieval Islamic states. Depressed people are not possessed by demons and they can be helped.

That's not to say that I'm blaming the family for not acting; far from it. Suicidal depression often goes undetected by family and many people feel powerless against it. Even psychiatrists struggle to help those with the illness - without hospitalization, it's next to impossible to make sure people are taking their medication. The reality is that without educating the wider public about the symptoms and realities of living with and treating depression, it is very hard to do anything. The families affected by suicide - and I've seen it rip families apart - would be better off told this, than by saying that suicidal people can't be helped. If we blame the disease, we'll be more active in trying to combat it, than fighting intangible spirits.

This is where psychic mediums move from being sideshow curiosities to being dangerous. When charlatans are given authority to speak on things they know nothing about and are propping up their own careers on the memories of the dead they become dangerous.

If she has some insights into how depression works, maybe she should write a paper and submit for peer review, but I don't think that she'll be doing that. She knows full well that it won't stand up to scrutiny. She knows full well that she'll be laughed out of every university and every scientific journal. She knows full well, that she's talking out of her arse to float her career on the pillaged memories of deceased loved ones - she might as well urinate on their graves.

I said before that it's a performance. I sincerely believe that it is. Otherwise, instead of giving 'readings' on television, she would be in the psychiatric hospitals, chasing away all those dark spirits.

... Do you get the impression that I don't like TV Psychics?


  1. When a fiction programme (such as Shortland Street) has an episode covering a topic such as sucide, there is usually a piece added to the end of the program: "if any of the issues in this program affect you, you can contact the following agencies for more information ..."

    Perhaps a complaint to the broadcasting standards people is in order, suggesting that even if they persist in screening such mindless content, they should at least provide some *real* help for viewers.

  2. Complaining to the Broadcasting Standards Authority is pointless. I've tried. TV stations are more than capable of weaseling around the rules.

    The rules need to be strengthened before we can appeal to them.

  3. I understand you..Sometimes there are those times that we don't agree to what we saw or hear.That's our prerogative as a person.

  4. And sometimes there are those times when charlatans cross the line from entertainment to dangerous garbage that can see vulnerable people get hurt - in this case, leading suicidal people to believe that there is no hope for them. This makes Sue Nicholson garbage.