Celebrities lose their minds, too

A new magazine published by a former Penthouse editor aims to use the travails of the famous to bring mental health issues into the mainstream. James Morrison reports

Britney Spears innocently clasps her hands behind her back in a cover shot for what appears to be the latest arrival on the celebrity maga-zine shelf - except that this is a title that delivers a diet of nervous breakdown, schizophrenia and anxiety.

Britney Spears innocently clasps her hands behind her back in a cover shot for what appears to be the latest arrival on the celebrity maga-zine shelf - except that this is a title that delivers a diet of nervous breakdown, schizophrenia and anxiety.

When it launches next month, There There magazine will offer a completely new approach to addressing the psychological problems suffered by one in five of the population at some point in our lives.

The magazine - aimed squarely at consumers rather than medical practitioners - aims to haul a notoriously "difficult" subject out of the medical journals and into the mainstream with the help of that ubiquitous latter-day weapon: celebrity.

The free quarterly title will be distributed exclusively through a nationwide network of 6,000 GPs' surgeries. It will address issues that affect many of us, such as anxiety and depression, as well as more complex conditions like schizophrenia, sugaring the pill by illustrating its articles not with the usual earnest case studies, but by analysing the well-publicised "breakdowns" of stars such as Spears.

There There is the brainchild of Jonathan Richards, a one-time group managing editor of Richard Desmond's Northern & Shell magazine empire. A self-proclaimed maverick with an eye for popular trends, Richards boasts an extraordinarily eclectic CV: in addition to sharing founding credits on OK!, he has edited Penthouse and launched a string of ground-breaking titles, among them the gay lifestyle monthly Attitude and, more controversially, For Women, the top-shelf magazine that became the first British title to feature full-frontal male nudes.

Given this colourful odyssey, it is tempting to view There There as little more than Richards's latest wheeze. Yet a chat with the personable, faintly hippie-ish 41-year-old suggests otherwise. After his long spell at Northern & Shell, he spent a while in contract publishing, but his career took an unforeseen turn in the late Nineties when a combination of "the mid-thirties itch" and the transformative effect that intensive therapy had had on a close friend persuaded him to take time out to train as a counsellor.

As he did after his earlier spell as a staff editor at Northern & Shell, Richards has put this experience to good use in his freelance work. One look at There There confirms that it is far from being a half-baked venture. Its glossy website, theretheremedia.com, showcases a series of impressive dummy covers for issue one, featuring icons ranging from Marilyn Monroe to Sex and the City's Kim Cattrall. The front that Richards has settled on, a riot of pastel pinks and blues, bears a familiar publicity still of Britney that could almost be taken from J17 or Heat - until, that is, one reads the accompanying strapline: "Britney returns - but is she really OK?"

This gives you only a taste of the magazine's sassy but sensitive content. Features about power yoga and anger management - the latter illustrated by a page-sized cut-out of the Hulk from the recent Ang Lee film - sit comfortably alongside "think pieces" by the eminent psychoanalyst Eric Rayner and Dilys Daws, a consultant child psychotherapist at London's Tavistock Clinic. To Richards's mind, the best article is by "a guy from Manchester" who describes how he has come to terms with depression.

Richards is coy about the cost of the launch ("it's a couple of decent Range Rovers") and the identity of his backers ("a couple of individuals who were happy to 'sleep'"). He is more forthcoming about his decision to distribute the magazine through surgeries, taken partly because of the prohibitive cost of reserving shelf-space in newsagents (some chains charge up to £15,000 to take new magazines for an initial three-month trial run), and the fact that, to many - WH Smith included - stocking free titles is anathema. He concedes there were also other reasons - not least his feeling that, once businesses wise up to the potential of the captive market of the waiting-room, There There will have no trouble attracting advertisers. It is clearly aimed at companies with deep pockets: a half-page ad costs £2,700, while a full page is £5,100.

"The first print run is 80,000 and there's a potential audience of 38 million," Richards says. "We had to sell our integrity to our distributors, but we managed to, and now it's national, absolutely national. We are looking for ethically aware companies to advertise - and we are offering them 10 to 15 readers per copy, in a market they don't often get to."

All this talk of advertisers starts to make There There sound like any other commercial venture. Yet, when he outlines his long-term aims for the magazine, Richards is insistent that it is about using the Trojan horse of celebrity to promote genuine understanding of complex issues relevant to us all.

"One in five people suffer from a mental health problem, and it costs £33bn a year in terms of antidepressants, doctors' time and impact on the country's productivity, yet, statistically, people would rather confess to alcoholism than having a mental health problem," he almost shouts. "There's still this under-the-carpet attitude towards it. Having done the dreaded focus group thing with people, I know the sort of thing they are usually still confronted by: badly Xeroxed pamphlets, and the like."

Richards sees There There as having the potential to occupy a similarly "socially aware" niche as The Big Issue. In time, he hopes that, rather than having to rely on archive celebrity pictures and quotes, he will be able to persuade some big names to speak to it directly. To this end, he is already "talking to PR companies to sell them the idea of being involved".

He has in mind the interview George Michael famously gave The Big Issue in 1996, in which he broke his lengthy media silence, and in so doing he set a precedent that numerous stars, from David Beckham to Arnold Schwarzenegger, followed. Richards openly admits his dream front cover would feature a banner announcing a Robbie Williams exclusive.

On paper, Richards's sensational back catalogue makes him seem an unlikely born-again social crusader. Yet he professes to be able to see a direct link between the likes of Attitude, For Women and There There. They have all emanated, he says, from an awareness of the "zeitgeist".

"My first proper engagement in journalism was on a bodybuilding magazine, Body Power. That really was a niche market, but it tapped into the zeitgeist of the time," he says. "In the early 1990s, nude pictures of men were zeitgeist, in the mid-1990s the pink pound was zeitgeist. Today, people work very hard and many suffer from stress and anxiety. I see There There as being about quality of life and reflecting the zeitgeist of today."

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

ERP Business/ Implementation Analyst

£40000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: This is an e...

Software Developer / Software Engineer

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: Combining a passion for Softwa...

Lead Software Developer / Senior Software Developer / Technical Architect

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: Lead Software Developer / Seni...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on