Monday, 28 March 2011

teenagers are normal

it's no secret that i'm not a big fan of nigel latta. that would be the reason why i haven't watched any of his programmes on tv, and certainly not the ones on recently about teenagers. there are, however, others who have watched them and aren't too happy:

In his Politically Incorrect Parenting Show on TV One, Latta explained teenagers' behaviour by describing them as "mental" and "not right in the head".

Christopher Banks, 33, who has bipolar disorder, argued Latta was in breach of the TV broadcasting code by encouraging discrimination.

On his blog, he accused Latta of damaging public perceptions of mental health.

"It ticks off every stereotype in the book. It's a step too far and ill-considered."

naturally, i had to go backto mr banks' blog to see what he'd written, and it's a pretty fine post. i'd recommend you read all of it. the comments section is another story, as the regular "your views" commenters turn up, don't bother reading the post, and come out with the usual bingo card of comments - get over it, switch channels, socialist nazis, and the like. i have to say that i did love this response from mr banks:

And sorry, but I don’t “switch channels” when something unjust or unfair is happening. I wouldn’t walk past someone being bullied in the street because I found it offensive, so I don’t see any difference when someone does it on television, on a government channel that we all happen to own.

on the whole, he has done extremely well dealing with a whole heap of nastiness. tvnz has not managed to do very well in their response, which is basically "he didn't intend to be offensive" and "it was just a joke":

"The intent of his show is not to denigrate anybody or anything, but to help and to educate using humour and, from time to time, exaggerations for effect."

as to intent, well i'll just steal this link from QoT's post (if swearing bothers you/is blocked by your system, then here's another one). as to it being a joke, mr banks' description of the "uncle jack" sketch included in the programme shows that this was way more than a quick & passing reference to mental illness. furthermore, as mr banks points out, when a qualified clinial psychiatrist thinks it's ok to be making fun of people with mental illness, that has a lot more impact than your average comedian.

one point not picked up by mr banks, but made on a facebook discussion is also very pertinent:

the statement that teenagers are "not right in the head" doesn't just encourage discrimination, to me it's also about reducing a whole group of people (teenagers) to those whose actions/intents and emotions are wrong or not normal. Nigel positions the adults as normal and rational, and I can't help wondering if sometimes teenagers don't wonder to themselves where the heck their parents are coming from! Just because the 'frame of reference' for one group is incomprehensible or not easily understood by another group does not mean that one is more normal or right.

i'll finish with a link to the second post on this subject by mr banks, and second his recommendation that you put in a broadcasting complaint if you have the time.


Melimalle said...

I'm so glad I'm not the only one who doesn't like this guy. I've never really been able to put my finger on it apart from the way that he assumes parents always make rational decisions with good judgment. He completely dismisses the experiences and decisions of teenagers which, while they aren't always good, are still valid.

Maybe it's because I'm still young enough to remember the pain and angst of those years or maybe it's because I see my (wonderful) parents making poor decisions sometimes for their remaining teenagers, but I don't agree with Latta's advice.

Story of O said...

Mr Banks....start a group.

How pathetic can people get.Harden up and get on with life.

Psycho Milt said...

Right on! If only this guy Latta could find it within himself to generalise about other people only in the kind of warm, caring, supportive way that QoT does for 50-year-old white men - how much better a person he would be.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your support, guys.

And "Story of O" - I have started a group. It's on Facebook, supports people with experience of mental illness, and gained 600 members from all over the world in less than a fortnight. Guess you're part of the "can't read" camp as well.

Pleasant day to you.

stargazer said...

psycho, if you have a problem with QoT, have the courage to take it up with her at her blog. stop derailing here. you'll note that QoT is not a qualified clinical psychiatrist on television.

O, yet you took time out of your life to leave a moronic comment here. how about you get on with your own life, rather than waste your time calling people names.

David said...

I guess that I would have had more experience with Clinical Psychologists & Psychiatrists than the average Joe in the street. I suffer from depression (moderate to severe) as well as anxiety disorders. Actually the depression is a side product of my anxiety and other disorders.

I went to see a Psychiatrist (Well dragged there by my GP) and diagnosed with the above. Of course at the time I didn’t believe him, I wasn’t depressed and I didn’t have any anxiety disorders (from where I was brought up “psychological disorders” were something that one should be ashamed of) I just couldn’t sleep for nights on end, therefore I wasn’t feeling the best and lack of sleep causes anxiety or so I thought at the time. All I needed was some pills to help me sleep. Not surprisingly I didn’t get better, because in my mind there was nothing wrong with me. All that happened was that I denied my true self.

Some years later I was faced with another crisis and accepted some treatment and got slightly better. Then BANG my world fell apart, and I was put under care of the most wonderful clinical psychologist, I’ll call her Jane.

When I first met Jane she more than exceeded my preconceived idea of a of “limp wristed trendy lefty liberal do gooder” and I assumed she was also a lesbian. Over a period of weeks we got to know each other (well Jane got to know me; I got to know only what she wanted me to know). Jane started to take me apart, and she wasn’t particularly gentle or nice with me, she continuously challenged my thinking and my perceptions of myself. In a nutshell she basically told me that I wasn’t “normal”, I was “mental” and I needed to accept and learn to live with it.

The day I finally admitted, knew and owned that I had problems, was the lightest day of my life, I’d never felt so free.

I still see Jane about two or three times a year; we have a great talk for a few hours while she probes my mind and reinforces my sense of self. I asked her about Nigel Latta and his show (the one that’s on now), Jane knows Nigel Latta, thinks he’s ok and his show is spot on. Jane also works with “troubled” teenagers and their families. Apparently teenagers are not normal and can in fact be described as “mental” when they are compared to mature adults, i.e. their parents. It’s an inconvenient truth, sort of like the world is not flat or that climate change is really happening.

The intended audience for this programme are ordinary parents, not clinical psychologists, professional teachers or social activists who may be more used to “academic speak”.

Jane does not let her clinical judgement get clouded by her social idealism; she, like clinical psychologists and health professionals, is guided by what actually works and what is best for her patients. Unlike other less professional and qualified “counsellors” who often are driven by their own idealism at the expense of the needs of the patient.

I’m not normal, I have “mental health issues”, yes I’m “mental”. I accept it, live with it, and do my best to get on with my life.

People like Nigel Latta & Jane are doing good work with teenagers. Its a pity they get critised because uninformed people let their social idealism blind themselves to effective clinical treatment.

Anonymous said...

I "generalise" about 50-year-old white men now? Guess pointing out that all the vocal ones who spend a lot of time telling women to STFU and get back in the kitchen enjoy massive amounts of racial and gender privilege counts as a generalisation now.

(Sorry for the offtopic comment but I figured hey, PM wasn't going to actually front up at my place any time soon.)

stargazer said...

thank you for sharing david, i really appreciate it.

i do have a couple of issues with what you say. one is the definition of "normal", because that is very much culturally defined and varies based on time and place. i understand your point about accepting that you have a mental health issue that needs to be dealt with, but i find the labelling of what is normal and what is not normal to be problematic because it can be unfairly othering of people.

i don't accept that all teenagers should be treated as if they have mental health issues. i just don't believe that stereotyping of that nature is helpful, especially when some teenagers actually do have issues that need to be treated, others may be being subject to abuse or bullying (in the home, at school, at friends home) and acting out their powerlessness and hurt, yet others may have parents who are forcing them into activities or career directions which they have no interest in. i just don't see how mr latta's characterisation is helpful.

but more than that, it sounds like you may not have read about or seen the sketch with "uncle jack", which is clearly disparaging of people with mental illnesses and actually reinforces the negative stereotypes around mental illnesses. the posts by mr banks, which i have linked, speak very eloquently to that point.

i don't think that people are all evil. i'm sure mr latta does some really good work and has helped many people out. but that doesn't exempt him from criticism when he does something wrong. the only reason i mention that he is a registered psychiatrist (or that mr banks has mentioned it) is because that gives his words a greater weight in this context, and the fact that he chooses to be disparaging makes that much more acceptable for other people to do so. and this is a context where he's not giving clinical treatment, he's giving out general advice in a way that, in my opinion & the opinion of others, is really not helpful (and in fact can be damaging to those trying to overcome stereotypes around mental illnesses).

let me say again that i really appreciate what you've shared, and how things are working out for you. i hope it all goes well.

stargazer said...

yeah, QoT, i've had to deal with people taking potshots at other bloggers on my own blog and over here. i don't tolerate that - people can do it on their own blogs, they don't need to use my space. any further discussion about your post(s) will absolutely have to go back to your place or his :)

Anonymous said...

Shiny :) To get back on topic, Nigel Latta is a cockbag. As a former mental-illness-suffering-teen, I can safely say that parents and other adults refusing to take my behaviour seriously has cost me no end of money and spoons.

nznative said...

I realised Latta was a complete self promotong fraud when watching a episode/program he did on Travis Burns, a psychotic killer.

Mr Latta who loves the police totaly glossed over the fact that Travis Burns was a multiple killer who had gotten away with the murder of Tania Furlan.

Because he was their police informer.

Latta made a piss weak excuse backing up the defective police work which effectivly allowed Burns to go on and murder another young mother.

I wouldn't let him raise my dog.

Psycho Milt said...

Comment wasn't about QoT's post, it was about yours. Fact that it mentions QoT is relevant only in that it provides an example of how generalisations like this are common and not really something to get all upset about.

nznative said...

Latta would be better in a cabaret than peddling his 'wisdom'.

otherwise go stand in the corner with Paul henry and Tony Veitch Mr Latta.

They'd all have a good laugh together ......

stargazer said...

except that QoT did not make the generalisation you claim she made. also, that sketch was not a generalisation, it was a specific disparaging of those with mental illnesses. also "everybody does it so it's ok" is not ever a defence to anything. also, it's so easy to be dismissive when you're not the one who is being ridiculed/discriminated against - the old "it doesn't affect me so it doesn't matter" argument. also, you don't get to tell other people what they should or shouldn't get upset about - or you can try to tell them, but it doesn't reflect very well on you. we get that you're not upset about it (and i'm not surprised). that doesn't invalidate the very valid concerns of people who are upset.

Julie said...

I've found some of Latta's advice on younger children helpful (having read the book originally called "Before Your Kids Drive You Crazy Read This", interesting to see it has been renamed "Politically Incorrect Parenting" now). While he markets himself as "politically incorrect" in fact he advises not using smacking at all, which I would have thought made him PC in the eyes of FF etc anyway. It seems to me he says quite outrageous things in his show which don't come across that way at all in the books. Marketing? Maybe.

I haven't paid much attention to his advice around teens, to date, but it does concern me that the approach outlined in your post does denigrate those with mental illnesses, and teenagers too.

I guess the other thing that occurs to me, and I may not express this very well so be gentle with me, is if it is standard for teenagers brains to have this period where they don't work differently, then perhaps actually it's not illness. Kind of like how when you are a baby you can't talk, right, so rather than insisting that babies communicate by talking we accept that that is the way they are and we modify _our_ way of dealing with them.

One thing I did strongly disagree with in his book for parenting young children was his suggested ban on letting teenage boys babysit them. He explained his position very well, in writing, but I still disagree. If we don't change the culture around this we'll never address the problem. And personally I had a teenage boy babysit me and very much enjoyed teaching him to plait hair.

stargazer said...

i get what you're saying julie, but then it comes down to what this "treat them differently" entails. if he was saying "don't treat them like they were adults because they aren't yet, and don't treat them like little chidren because they aren't anymore; you need to modify your behaviour to take account of the fact that they are at a particular age when they are developing their identity & practising how to make their own decisions", then yes, i would be ok with that. i have no problem with discussing developmental phases of human beings and some useful techniques for dealing with each phase of development.

but when he says we should treat them as if they were diseased, that disease being a mental illness, and ridicules those with mental illness, then i have a major problem with that. it's the basic lack of respect he shows towards teenagers and towards those with mental illnesses that pisses me off. the fact that he thinks it's ok to do this in order to create a sense of camaraderie with the parents so that they will be more receptive to his message? nope, still not ok.

Julie said...

I agree Anjum, thanks for putting it like that.

Latta has made a call that the means (all that nasty stuff about teenagers and those with mental illnesses) justifies the end (encouraging better parenting techniques). But the means he has bought into actually undermines the end he wants because it is the antithesis of respect.

As I've said, I find his ideas about techniques to use with young children actually very useful. Haven't paid any attention to the ones about teens, yet, but I suspect there are some good thoughts in there. Which makes the negative stuff even more of a shame.

stargazer said...

another thought that occurs to me: it would be really nice if mr latta had clearly stated somewhere "please treat teenagers as humans beings that have the same intrinsic value as yourself. treat them as you would like to be treated, and be a model of the behaviour your would like to see from them. more than that, respect that they have the right to make choices about their present and their future. these choices might be different from the ones you would like them to make, but you don't actually own your children. you have a responsibility to guide them and the right to discipline them, but they have the right to determine how their lives will evetually pan out: accept that."

now maybe mr latta does make these points somewhere - i don't follow him enough to know. but it would be pretty sad if he didn't.

Tim said...

it's so easy to be dismissive when you're not the one who is being ridiculed/discriminated against

Apparently so.

Moz said...

I'm reminded of this Dilbert cartoon about adults wisely deciding the wreck the planet. For some reason the idea that adults all have a much better understanding of the situation than children and teenagers do seems unrealistic to me. But if Latta had a more reality-based approach to things he probably wouldn't make such "great" television?