Workplace stress – medical epidemic or all in the mind?
Sponsored by Body & Soul, the Saturday health supplement of The Times, in association with the Academy of Ideas Science & Health Forum and produced by Bríd Hehir
Lecture Theatre 2, 10.30 - 12.00 on Saturday 28 October 2006
November 1 will be the ninth national Stress Awareness Day in the UK, where nearly 20% of people reportedly find work stressful, millions of working days are lost due to stress and the costs to the economy run into billions. The government takes the issue very seriously and employers are now legally obliged to assess the risk of stress at work. But is stress a real problem or has it been artificially constructed? Does the focus on stress not make things worse by encouraging introspection and ultimately undermining people’s ability to cope with everyday pressures?
Dr Rosemary Anderson, chartered health psychologist; director, Anderson peak Performance (ApP); author of research report Stress and Well Being (2006) for Developing Patient Partnerships at the British Medical Association; co-author, 'Stress at Work', Haynes Brain Manual
Rob Briner, professor of organizational psychology, Birkbeck College, University of London; co-author with Neil Conway, Understanding Psychological Contracts at Work: A Critical Evaluation of Theory and Research (2005)
Dr Ken McLaughlin, senior lecturer in social work, Manchester Metropolitan University; author, 'Stressing Vulnerability: Stress Discourse in the Public Sector', in Journal of Critical Psychology, Counselling and Psychotheraphy (2004)
Angela Patmore, author, The Truth About Stress (2006)
Chair: Bríd Hehir, lead for patient and public involvement, Camden Primary Care Trust
- Stress at Work Makes Men Ill BBC News 08 June 2006
- Vivienne Parry Stress: A Blight on Modern Life BBC News 06 September 2005
- Thelma Agnew The workplace stress epidemic Channel 4: Health
Playing Balls - why are men becoming obsessed with their health?
Sponsored by Body & Soul, the Saturday health supplement of The Times, in association with the Academy of Ideas Science & Health Forum and produced by Ellie Lee & Liz Frayn
Lecture Theatre 2, 13.30 - 15.00 on Saturday 28 October 2006
‘Why can’t a woman be more like a man?’ sang Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady, to the wayward Audrey Hepburn. Today, men’s health campaigners have the opposite point of view. For the good of their health, men are encouraged to behave more like women: be more aware of their bodies and seek medical advice more readily. At every life stage men are advised and educated about health. ‘Know Your Balls’ videos are shown in schools to raise awareness of testicular cancer, while ‘Real Men’ informative beer mats were distributed in pubs during prostate cancer awareness week. A panel will dissect this trend, looking at the evidence behind men’s health campaigns, and their impact on men and masculinity.
Michael Baum, professor emeritus of surgery and visiting professor of medical humanities, University College London
Dr Michael Fitzpatrick, GP; medical journalist and author, MMR and Autism (2004)
Jim Pollard, writer and editor, Malehealth.co.uk; author, All Right, Mate? An Easy Intro to Men's Health (1999)
Dr Dana Rosenfeld, lecturer, Department of Health and Social Care, Royal Holloway, University of London; co-editor, Medicalized Masculinities (2006)
Chair: Dr Liz Frayn, senior house officer in psychiatry, Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust
§ Ellie Lee Pathologising fatherhood: the construction of postnatal depression as a men’s problem in Britain School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, University of Kent 2005 (pdf)
Morbid Fascinations - our obsession with death
Sponsored by the Centre for Death and Society (CDAS) and Body & Soul, the Saturday health supplement of The Times and produced by Tiffany Jenkins
Lecture Theatre 2, 15.30 - 17.00 on Saturday 28 October 2006
We are often told that death is the last taboo. For some time our society has been instructed to face up to death, discuss it and stop sidelining it. But have we moved from simply facing up to our mortality towards an unhealthily morbid fascination? TV ‘events’ screen live autopsies, documentaries focus on how people die and the deaths of public figures and children fill our screens and newspapers. Meanwhile ‘celebrities’ with terminal illnesses write diaries of their dying days as newspaper columns and publishers happily market ‘death memoirs’ as best sellers. Nowadays, death has even become a focus for political debate. Political campaigns have emerged around the poor treatment of the terminally ill in under-resourced hospices. There is a new enthusiasm for campaigns focusing on the right to ‘die with dignity’ and voluntary euthanasia seems to be increasingly popular. Earlier this year ‘Dying Well’, an all-party parliamentary group, was set up.
Do such public discussions about death mean that we have at last grown up and are prepared to confront the final taboo, or does this signify a more pessimistic attitude to the challenges thrown up by terminal illness and palliative care? Does our new cultural interest in death mean that the so-called denial of death is over, and if so is this a good thing or is this no more than morbid voyeurism? If society is so preoccupied with death and dying, what does this tell us about the contemporary attitude to life and the living?
Dr Michael Fitzpatrick, GP; medical journalist and author, MMR and Autism (2004)
Professor Malcolm Johnson, director, International Institute on Ageing and Health
Raymond Tallis, professor of geriatric medicine, University of Manchester
Dr Tony Walter, reader in sociology, University of Reading and Centre for Death and Society, University of Bath; author, The Revival of Death (1994) and On Bereavement: The Culture of Grief (1999)
Chair: Tiffany Jenkins, arts and society director, Academy of Ideas
Camilla Zimmerman and Gary Rodin The denial of death thesis: sociological critique and implications for pallitative care Sage 2004 (pdf)
Sending parents back to school
Sponsored by General Teaching Council for England (GTCE), in association with the Academy of Ideas Education Forum and produced by Mark Taylor
Lecture Theatre 2, 11.00 - 12.30 on Sunday 29 October 2006
Parents have always played a role in their children’s education – choosing schools, supervising homework, signing-off end-of-year reports, or simply attending sports days and parents’ evenings. The Department for Education and Skills rightly points out that ‘parents are a child's first and enduring teachers. They play a crucial role in helping their children learn’. However, this once informal relationship is now being increasingly formalised and expanded. New schemes, such as the Summer 2006 National SureStart Month aims to ensure parents ‘fully participate’ in activities such as organising ‘breakfast picnics in the park or treasure hunts’.
Parents’ new educational role is not entirely voluntary. Fines, parenting orders and parenting classes are all recent innovations aimed at encouraging parents to take their responsibilities more seriously. Recalcitrant parents have had to face ‘home-school agreements’ to ensure their children comply with school behaviour policies. The role of schools has also greatly increased, be it the new ‘extended school’ that seeks to become a centre for community life from morning till night, or the expanded role of individual teachers who take on an ever greater duty of care over their young charges – from inspecting the content of their lunchbox to ensuring that parents fulfil their ‘evening reading’ guidelines.
Do these new developments improve the educational experience of pupils, or do they now feel sandwiched between hyperactive parents and ever-demanding teachers? If home and school are both educational outlets, when are the young supposed to relax? Are children now at risk of losing school as a space for self-development and the beginnings of a social life outside the gaze of their parents? Did the traditional boundary between teachers who teach and parents who raise children outside school, let too many children slip through the educational cracks? Is there room any more for the professional autonomy of teachers, and the option for parents to leave schools to get on with educating children without their involvement?
Mark Taylor, history teacher, Addey and Stanhope Secondary School, London
Fiona Johnson, director of communications, General Teaching Council for England
India Knight, columnist, The Sunday Times; novelist
Dr Adam Swift, director, Centre for the Study of Social Justice, University of Oxford
Chair: Kevin Rooney, head of social science, Queens' School, Bushey
Surveillance society - protection from ourselves?
Sponsored by The Future Cities Project and produced by Emilie Bickerton
Lecture Theatre 2, 14.00 - 15.30 on Sunday 29 October 2006
Public space is increasingly subject to surveillance, and the only noticeable challenge is that tired and half-hearted Orwellian snipe of ‘Big Brother’. Within 400 yards of anywhere in Britain, there is a closed-circuit television camera; this country has more than any other. Yet serious opposition to surveillance is conspicuous only for its absence. CCTV is justified on the grounds of protection and the consensus is for less privacy and more safety.
Implicit in the safety justification is a bleak view of society, but does CCTV actually erode the social fabric further by institutionalising suspicion? Does the expectation that the authorities will deal with any trouble undermine our sense of ourselves as citizens able to act against threatening behaviour? A recent poll showed Britons were less likely than other Europeans to step in to quell unrest in their vicinity: 34% said they would intervene to stop a group of children vandalising a bus stop, compared with 64% of Germans, with Spaniards and Italians at 50% and the French at 40%. Is Britain a cowardly nation, or simply one increasingly used to the state intervening, particularly now that such intervention has been institutionalised through ASBOs? Should we oppose increasing surveillance, or are we better off in the benevolent gaze of CCTV?
Guy Herbert, general secretary, No2id
David Petch, commissioner, Independent Police Complaints Commission
Stuart Waiton, director, Generation Youth Issues
Richard Williams, senior lecturer, history of art, University of Edinburgh; author, The Anxious City: English Urbanism in the Late Twentieth Century (2004)
Chair: Karl Sharro, architect and urbanist, Future Cities Project
- Brendan O'Neill Watching you watching me New Statesman 02 October 2006
- Michael Howie 'Big Brother' concerns as secret system of cameras is rolled out Scotsman 26 August 2006
- Gaby Hinsliff Brown to let shops share ID card data Guardian 06 August 2006
- William Rees-Mogg Someone to watch over you The Times 16 January 2006
Demoralising the debate: poverty or social exclusion?
In association with the Academy of Ideas Postgraduate Forum and produced by Maria Grasso
Lecture Theatre 2, 16.00 -17.30 on Sunday 29 October 2006
Public institutions such as the government’s Social Exclusion Unit have been busy offering social inclusion and raising people’s self esteem. For New Labour, the problem of social exclusion seems not so much about material poverty but about ‘supporting’ and ‘enabling’ individuals. Traditionally the debate around poverty revolved around the rights and wrongs of wealth redistribution. Against this, the Blairite vision of inequality seems to emphasise psychological well-being over meeting material needs. In contrast to traditional debates around social redistribution, in which poverty was understood as a contingent social problem that might be overcome, talk of ‘social exclusion’ implies an inherent state of being in the minds of individuals.
Should we accept the implications of the social inclusion agenda as an improvement upon an outdated discussion of poverty and wealth redistribution? If we should, does the human search for self-realisation require governmental institutionalisation of the ‘right to self-esteem’? Or is the social exclusion agenda nothing more than a cynical expression For more recommended readings please click here...of the current view that there can be no real social change, only the therapeutic affirmation of individual identities?
Dolan Cummings, research and editorial director, Academy of Ideas; co-convenor, Battle of Ideas
Kate Green, chief executive, Child Poverty Action Group
Chris Pond, chief executive, One Parent Families; writer of publications on poverty and inequality
David Robinsonsenior advisor, Community Links
Chair: Maria Grasso, researcher in sociology, Nuffield College, University of Oxford
- Stephen O’Brien We're richer, so poverty to be redefined Sunday Times 09 April 2006
- Patrick Wintour Blair brings social exclusion into the cabinet Guardian 24 February 2006
- Analysis: a look at the government's social exclusion policies Guardian 16 January 2002