That’s one of the questions Dr. H. Steven Moffic asks in a recent Psychiatric Times article and, given Los Angeles Lakers’ Ron Artest’s public gratitude toward his psychologist (which is actually mentioned in Moffic’s article and, like Artest and me, he mistakenly refers to her as a psychiatrist), it’s a pretty timely question.

Why Aren’t There Any Celebrity Psychiatrists? is Moffic’s answer (rather, his other question) to another recent article, The Los Angeles Times’ The Cult of Celebrity Doctors.

Close, but no cigar.

During the article, Moffic lists the seven well-known “celebrity” doctors featured in the Times article and notes that although there is one psychologist listed – Dr. Phil – there are no psychiatrists.

He then goes on to talk about what it would take to be a celebrity doctor (competent as an authority figure, convey humanistic concerns, be comfortable in the spotlight and telegenic if they’re going to be on television, etc. and so forth), but it’s his two questions that really make you think more about psychiatrists in (or not in) the limelight rather than about the doctors who already are:

“Why aren’t there any celebrity psychiatrists?” and “Are we better off behind the scenes?”

The example of Mr Artest suggests to me what a loss this may be for society and psychiatry. Sure, we have had the drama of Dr Gupta performing minor surgery on a baby in Haiti after the earthquake, but what if a celebrity psychiatrist could depict the reframing of the psychological trauma for a child? Dr. Oz is an advisor and spokesman for RealAge.com, but what about a psychiatrist doing something similar for an imaginary new site, RealMind.com? What if a celebrity psychiatrist could advise the nation about getting mental health checkups? Controversy about DSM-5 is a natural for brief sound bites about new diagnoses. How about the pros and cons about psychoactive medication for self-improvement? Anyone for a psychiatrist as the next U.S. Surgeon General? As far as I can tell, there has never been one. Or, are we better off behind the scenes?

What do you think?

Could a “celebrity” psychiatrist help further the nation’s awareness and understanding of mental illness and taking care of one’s mental health (ideally, all while helping bust stigma), or is it better that, so far, psychiatrists seem to be better off working behind the scenes?