Radio National’s excellent long-running weekly show explores all things mental, from the way the brain works to social behaviour, emotions, dreaming, obsession, illness, creativity and much more. Currently hosted by Lynne Malcolm, and combining the latest science with powerful personal stories and interviews, it’s a show that informs, entertains and brings awareness to multiple aspects of the human condition. Recent themes include: Borderline Personality Disorder, Autism, Drugs and Addiction, Anxiety and the ‘worry bully’, and ‘Inside Talking Therapy.’ This is good stuff, whether you’re fighting your own battle with mental illness or just interested in all things brainy.
This award-winning Australian memoir podcast about suicide is the creation of Honor Eastly. Her previous podcast was Being Honest with My Ex, in which she and her former partner excavated their relationship with humour and intimacy. Similarly candid and creatively realised, this 2018 project for ABC Audio Studios, traces Eastly’s battle with depression and anxiety, from her visits to her psychiatrist, conversations with her boyfriend and time spent in a psychiatric ward. The sound design is beautiful and evocative, layered with voices and everyday sounds, including Eastly’s own chorus of critical internal voices telling her she’s worthless and hopeless. No Feeling is final gives a great insight into the exhausting experience of living with mental illness, but it’s also full of hope and humour. As the title suggests: even the worst feelings will pass if we hold on.
Often described as one part therapy, one part stand-up comedy, this podcast hosted by American humorist and public radio personality John Moe, is now in its fourth season. The original format saw each episode interviewing a comedian living with depression. Featured guests included Margaret Cho, Maria Bamford and Andy Richter. But with the growing popularity of the podcast, guests now come from all over the entertainment industry, and recent episodes feature blogger Heather B. Armstrong, child actor Mara Wilson and singer Neko Case, as well as listener feedback and shows devoted to specific issues like finding a therapist, dealing with imposter syndrome, battling burnout and the ways in which depression often coexists with other conditions like anxiety and addiction. If you were ever under the illusion that fame and talent inoculate against mental illness, this podcast is a welcome reminder we’re all in it together and you’re not alone.
With the backlash against mindfulness in full swing, it’s become commonplace to criticise it as a sinister substitute for the proper structural changes needed to challenge capitalism. Nevertheless, this simple, friendly and well-researched Australian podcast, created and hosted by Rachael Kable, provides practical suggestions and gentle encouragement to many a stressed out soul. According to its website, within a month it had reached number 7 in the Australian iTunes charts and number 31 in the British charts. Bite-sized episodes of around ten minutes are released every Thursday, covering topics like how to identify and challenge cognitive distortions, the benefits of minimalism, dealing with grief and positive ways to use your phone. Much of the podcast’s appeal lies in Kable’s lilting delivery and calm manner that’s a balm to 3am worry bullies.
5. On Being
This Peabody Award-winning public radio show and podcast goes deep on big questions and isn’t afraid to get metaphysical and spiritual as well as scientific. Hosted by Krista Tippett, each episode asks, ‘What does it mean to be human? How do we want to live? And who will we be to each other?’ Recent guests have included former white-power heir apparent Derek Black, on the friendships that changed him; science writer Erik Vance on the placebo effect and its ability to ‘unleash the brain’s superpowers’; and acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton speaking inspiringly about the power of silence and the way that true quietness is on the verge of extinction. This is quality brain food for seekers of all kinds.
Gretchen Rubin is the former lawyer turned #1 bestselling author of The Happiness Project, a book about the year she spent living according the collected and synthesised wisdom, science and philosophy of being happier. In this podcast she tackles similar subject matter, but teams up with her younger sister Elizabeth Craft, a TV writer and producer living in Los Angeles. Together they talk about their own struggles and successes, tips for building healthy habits, and interviews with guest like author Malcolm Gladwell. Recent weekly episode topics have included an ’emergency kit for anxiety, worry and stress’ and ‘the right thing to say to a person who has high hopes’. Gretchen and Elizabeth are smart, talky, earnest and a bit girly swotty about their very middle class happiness projects. They won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but this good natured podcast is full of ideas and practical suggestions, and has sound wisdom at its foundation.