The SBS show How 'Mad' Are You? challenges preconceptions about mental health. It asks the question: "How distinguishable are people who have a history of mental illness?", starting a sometimes difficult conversation.
There are also a variety of podcasts continuing this conversation. The long-form audio format is highly conducive to having nuanced discussions from multiple perspectives, and has the potential to help listeners understand how to cope with mental health issues. The growing popularity of podcasts centred on mental health is helping to minimise the stigmas that often prevent people from getting help in the first place.
Here are some of the most interesting podcasts along this theme:
The Hilarious World of Depression
Host: John Moe
American writer and radio personality John Moe aims to kill the stigma by tickling it. Each episode is an interview with a comedian living with depression (though due to the program's popularity, guests are now from all over the entertainment industry). The podcast is powerful in helping to make listeners feel simultaneously less alone and lighter. Featured guests have included comedians Russell Brand, Margaret Cho, Wayne Brady and Will Wheaton.
Terrible, Thanks for Asking
Host: Nora McInerny
The flipside of Hilarious World, Terrible, Thanks for Asking takes the stories of real people who’ve gone through hell and it doesn’t pull any punches in the process. To set the tone, McInerny’s first episode is about the death of her partner to brain cancer, and each subsequent episode gives voice to a non-celebrity with a vital story to tell. For the audience, it’s emotionally cathartic, and a reminder that we all deal with life’s day-to-day curveballs in our own way.
The Anxiety Shut-In Hour
Hosts: Erin Van Krimpen and Anna Spargo-Ryan
This Australian podcast is hosted by a lawyer, Erin, and a digital strategist, Anna, who both live with anxiety issues. Listeners can expect a particular focus on the many guises of anxiety disorders. Each episode welcomes a guest into the already infectious rapport between the two hosts and tackles the day-to-day experience of anxiety with an approach that is equal parts grounded and light-hearted, with a healthy dose of sarcasm thrown in. Though the pair has only produced seven episodes to date, each one gives a human voice to anxiety, and is recommended commuter listening.
Hosts: Tyler May and Laura Benson
Mr. Feels takes on the entire spectrum of mental illness, debunking myths about everything from bipolar disorder to OCD. The aim is not only to destigmatise mental illnesses through conversation and community but to arm listeners with tools to manage their conditions. The dedicated page for each podcast provides a list of resources and processes discussed in the episode, offering proactive help and support to those who might otherwise not know how to get either.
Hosts: Alix Spiegel and Hanna Rosin
One of the best ways to understand mental illness is to explore the invisible forces that propel it. Invisibilia offers just that kind of insight. As listeners would come to expect from America's National Public Radio, the podcast presents these concepts through empathetic, meticulously researched, riveting human stories, as opposed to off-the-cuff discussions. Each one, whether dealing with death, the various forms of love, the origins of emotion, or the nature of violent thoughts, will leave you with the impression that you can understand yourself and your peers a little better.
Bryony Gordon’s Mad World
Host: Bryony Gordon
This is another podcast that attacks stigmas by locating the aspects of mental illness that touch every single one of us - through candid talks with those in the public eye. The opening episode is a no-holds-barred chat with Prince Harry and subsequent guests include NHS director Mandy Stevens and actor Stephen Fry. The conversations are vital and almost always uplifting.
Host: Fearne Cotton
Happy Place takes on the most common mental illnesses including depression and anxiety through the lens of “happiness” – what it means, whether its definition has been distorted by our modern world, and how it ultimately means something different for every individual. For anyone that obsesses over their lack of happiness and is filled with envy over how happy others seem to be, this podcast will be endlessly helpful in reorienting your attitude towards the concept.
The Struggle Bus
Hosts: Katharine Heller and Sally Tamarkin
With a particular focus on self-care in the face of mental illness, The Struggle Bus answers relatable listener questions about the challenges of living with mental illness. In fact, the concerns seem so ordinary and pervasive that you begin to winder if the “illness” label – in an overwhelming number of cases – need a complete rethink.
How ‘Mad’ Are You? is streaming at SBS On Demand:
If you or someone you know is in need of assistance, contact Lifeline 13 11 14 , Beyond Blue 1300 224 636 or Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800.