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YouTube and ‘psychiatry’

  • Robert Gordon (a1), John Miller (a2) and Noel Collins (a3)

YouTube is a video-sharing website that is increasingly used to share and disseminate health-related information, particularly among younger people. There are reports that social media sites, such as YouTube, are being used to communicate an anti-psychiatry message but this has never been confirmed in any published analysis of YouTube clip content. This descriptive study revealed that the representation of ‘psychiatry’ during summer 2012 was predominantly negative. A subsequent smaller re-analysis suggests that the negative portrayal of ‘psychiatry’ on YouTube is a stable phenomenon. The significance of this and how it could be addressed are discussed.

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This is an open-access article published by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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Correspondence to Noel Collins (
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BJPsych Bulletin
  • ISSN: 2056-4694
  • EISSN: 2056-4708
  • URL: /core/journals/bjpsych-bulletin
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YouTube and ‘psychiatry’

  • Robert Gordon (a1), John Miller (a2) and Noel Collins (a3)
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No smoke without fire

Richard Braithwaite, Consultant Psychiatrist, Isle of Wight NHS Trust
22 January 2016

In trying to explain why the portrayal of psychiatry on YouTube might be predominantly negative (1), Gordon et al fail to consider the obvious – that the producers of ‘negative’ videos may actually have a point.

It is hard to disagree with any of the accusations about overuse of drugs made by the lawyer featured in the first video on their list. A couple of the many speakers in the second clip make slightly exaggerated statements, but its main message, that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (2) is an arbitrary and harmful construct, is entirely correct. The third and final ‘negative’ video on the authors’ list follows in this vein.

It is notable that some speakers in these videos doubt the existence of, say, schizophrenia, by virtue of the fact that it is listed in the same book as nonsensical diseases such as conduct disorder or compulsive buying disorder. Who can blame them? Similarly, others might doubt that bipolar affective disorder exists at all, because the diagnostic criteria for one its forms are so wide they have no face validity. When the public’s intelligence is insulted by the psychiatric establishment in such a manner, how can it be expected to believe the basic facts about what we really do know?

Psychiatry has become the slave of its pharmaceutical masters, with diseases and pathophysiologies invented and widened to create a market for drugs (3,4). Psychiatrists have been complicit in this. Yet Gordon et al refer to people like me, who endeavour to expose this truth and make positive changes to practice in the interests of our patients, as ‘disgruntled psychiatrists’; they suggest waging a media war by posting more positive videos. But this will get us nowhere.

If we want the outside world to be kind to us, we need to get our own house in order first. We need to dispense with absurd disorders from our classifications, narrow our definitions of serious illness, focus on those endogenous diseases for which we have clear meta-analytic evidence of effective treatment and restrict provision of pharmacological treatment to patients who are actually ill.


1. Gordon R, Miller J, Collins N. YouTube and ‘psychiatry’. BJPsych Bulletin 2015; 39: 285-287.

2. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th edn) (DSM-5). APA, 2013.

3. Healy, D. Serotonin and depression. BMJ 2015; 350: h1771

4. Spence, D. Are antidepressants overprescribed? Yes. BMJ 2013; 346: f191
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Conflict of interest: None Declared

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You too, YouTube?

Sundararajan Rajagopal, Consultant Psychiatrist, Private Practice, Chennai, INDIA
04 January 2016

The study by Gordon et al (1) looking at the portrayal of psychiatry in YouTube videos was novel, although it was disheartening to note their finding that our field is being depicted in a predominantly negative light.

In this context, I am writing to provide some details of my YouTube channel called ‘Psychiatry Lectures’ (2). This is a free-to-access educational channel featuring videos on psychiatry topics, targeted at health professionals who see psychiatric patients. So far, I have uploaded 19 videos covering most of the major psychiatry topics (e.g. Schizophrenia, Mood Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, etc.) and also other areas of personal interest to me (e.g. Catatonia, Placebo Effect, Conversion Disorders, etc.). The average duration of the videos is about 50 minutes, and most videos end with a set of 5 multiple choice questions (MCQs). The videos are in the form of PowerPoint presentations with my narration.

My first video was uploaded on 11th January 2015 with the others added at regular intervals. YouTube has an ‘Analytics’ section, accessible to the channel’s creator, that provides detailed statistics about viewership. Till 31st December 2015, the 19 videos had garnered over 34,000 views in 160 countries, with the top 5 nations in terms of views being the United States of America, India, United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada. Demographic details (of those who viewed the videos after logging in) show a male preponderance (65%). With respect to age, the 25-34 years group had the maximum viewers followed by the 18-24 years group; this suggests (and is supported by feedback in the ‘Comments’ section) that medical students and postgraduate psychiatry trainees form the bulk of the audience. In total, the videos have received 210 ‘likes’ and only 6 ‘dislikes’ indicating a high degree of acceptability in a discerning, mainly professional audience.

My YouTube channel may be considered as part of free open access medical education (FOAM). The FOAM ‘movement’, pioneered by emergency medicine physicians in Australia (3), aims to offer medical students and doctors free access to medical information online, delivered in a variety of formats like videos, slideshows, podcasts, articles, blogs, Twitter (#FOAMed), etc.

The paper by Gordon et al (1) is a timely reminder to the psychiatric profession that we have to battle widespread misinformation, whether deliberate or well-intentioned, about our speciality not only in traditional, mainstream media (print, TV, etc.) but also in cyberspace. Constructive criticism, both from within and outside the profession, are definitely valid and welcome. But, biased and baseless distortions about psychiatry only reinforce the already entrenched stigma, with far-reaching consequences ranging from inadequate recruitment of psychiatrists (4) to discrimination against patients (5). The suggestions of Gordon et al (1), on how psychiatry can ‘fight back’ against this misrepresentation, are worthy of consideration.


1.Gordon R, Miller J, Collins N. YouTube and ‘psychiatry’. BJPsych Bulletin 2015; 39: 285-287.

2.Rajagopal S. YouTube channel ‘Psychiatry Lectures’. Available at (accessed 1 January 2016).

3.Nickson CP, Cadogan MD. Free Open Access Medical education (FOAM) for the emergency physician. Emerg Med Australas 2014; 26: 76-83.

4.Rajagopal S, Rehill KS, Godfrey E. Psychiatry as a career choice compared with other specialties: a survey of medical students. Psychiatr Bull 2004; 28: 444-446.

5. Taggart H, Bailey S. Ending lethal discrimination against people with serious mental illness. Br J Psychiatry 2015; 207: 469-470.

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