Psychology, psychiatry, mental illness, symptom, trauma, disorder – these are murky and scary words for many people. The definitions and differences between these words remain unclear to many of us because of taboos surrounding mental health. The people who know the most about these terms either work in mental healthcare or are clients of these services. We label people receiving therapy or prescriptions for psychological conditions as ‘crazy’, and typically don’t receive education from mental healthcare workers about the services they provide and the differences between them – unless we are in crisis ourselves. It’s pretty shit, hey?
Structurally, culturally, we lack the education required to deal with mental health issues. While initiatives and organisations like Heads Up and Mental Health Australia work to correct this from the top down (in our governments, in our places of work, in our schools, and in our communities), individually we can and should work towards educating ourselves.
These podcasts talk about mental health and mental illness in an open, accessible, and often funny way. Some of the below media makers have identified as dealing with mental health issues themselves, and they’re using their experience to provide information and resources to others.
1. The Anxiety Shut-In Hour with Anna Spargo-Ryan and Erin Marie
“Anna and Erin live with anxiety, which is probably 50% as fun as it sounds. The Anxiety Shut-In Hour explores mental health in society, culture, media and the pantry.”
What makes it good? On top of being insightful and honest, it’s also incredibly funny. Anna and Erin have great chemistry; listening to them talk about how mental illness affects their lives while they make dry, sarcastic jabs at one another is a very good way to spend 60 minutes. It’s also not a conversation that we typically get to hear. Mental illness in the media is often spoken about at arms length; to identify with it publicly means to associate yourself with words that other people may use to define and stigmatise you (‘crazy’, ‘psycho’, ‘mental’ etc). Anna and Erin use their personal experiences to talk about wider socio-cultural issues, including mental health in the workplace, the link between creativity and mental illness, and the cost of treatment.
Suggested Episode: Episode Five, where Anna and Erin talk about how being able to articulate the way you feel, and knowing the medical jargon of your mental illness, can affect the way professionals perceive your need for help. Being unwell long-term typically means gaining knowledge around your symptoms or illness in order to best understand what you need. However, being able to articulate this knowledge, particularly during times of crisis, can make it seem as though you are more well than you are. Anna and Erin also talk about other feelings that can get in the way of the psychologist/client relationship (wanting to be ‘the best’, most self aware client, wanting to seem like you don’t really ‘need’ therapy), and why this hinders effective treatment.
2. The Mental Illness Happy Hour with Paul Gilmartin (U.S)
“The Mental Illness Happy Hour is a weekly online podcast that interviews comedians, artists, friends, and the occasional doctor. Each episode explores mental illness, trauma, addiction and negative thinking.”
What makes it good? This podcast covers a lot of ground. At the time of writing there are 261 episodes covering anxiety, depression, addiction, trauma, psychosis, abusive relationships and a variety of related topics. Paul interviews his listeners and friends about their experiences, and provides a safe place for them to share their stories. Paul has also interviewed psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers. These episodes provide access to the expertise of people working in mental healthcare, and also serve to humanise the professionals who are often portrayed as invulnerable to the issues they provide treatment for. As a host, Paul is self-deprecating, empathetic, and deserves a massive high-five.
Note: Because of the inherently sensitive nature of many of the issues covered on the podcast, there are no trigger warnings in the audio. Scanning the episode notes may be a good idea if there are specific types of stories you would like to avoid.
Suggested Episode: Episode 240 with Psychiatrist Dr Melanie Watkins. Paul and Melaine discuss personality disorders, medication (types, side effects and pregnancy), and the way race and power intersect when it comes to interacting with mental healthcare services and law enforcement. Melanie also has her own podcast aimed at people working in mental healthcare called Your Mental Health First.
3. Ask Pew! Pew! with David Burton and Claire Christian (Australia)
“Ask Pew!Pew! is a show for life’s big conversations from David Burton and Claire Christian. Part Dolly Doctor, part Agony Aunt, part letter writing campaign, part laser sound and part jazz routine, Pew!Pew! is what you listen to when you want to think and feel good at the same time.”
What makes it good? While David and Claire do sometimes address mental illness directly, Ask Pew! Pew! is more broadly aimed at discussing factors that contribute to or detract from emotional wellbeing. David and Claire talk about mental health in relation to friendship, meditation, self-esteem, sex education, intimacy, and other topics, unattached to specific disorders. They also have a YouTube channel, and David is the author of How To Be Happy: A Memoir of Love, Sex and Teenage Confusion, which covers similar topics, including depression and suicide.
Suggested Episode: The Mood & Meditation episode, in which David and Claire discuss the Pixar movie Inside Out and the impact it could have on children and adults in terms of increasing self-awareness and the ability to regulate emotions. They also discuss the difficulties and benefits of establishing a formal meditation practice, owning your shit, the role genetics play in having a sunny disposition, and introversion vs extroversion.
4. Kati Morton Therapist, YouTube Channel (U.S.)
“I’m Kati Morton, a licensed marriage & family therapist. I make videos on YouTube about mental health. Together we’re defeating the stigma!”
What makes it good? Kati uses her knowledge as a licensed therapist to talk informally about mental health issues, providing gateway information to people who may not otherwise seek it out. As therapy is typically a private experience that we don’t share with others, many people are uninformed about what it is and what is expected of them. Kati uses her channel to demystify this process.
Suggested Episode: Kati has a New? Start Here! playlist covering a number of topics that people beginning to educate themselves about therapy, stigma, boundaries, and self-care might find helpful. Kati has also featured on episodes 214 and 226 of The Mental Illness Happy Hour.
This article first appeared on ‘Daily Life’ on 19 February 2016.