In trying times, sorting through your thoughts and emotions can be hard. If you are looking for help, there is no substitute for professional treatment and medical intervention. A self-care podcast may provide supplemental support. There are many programs that guide audiences through meditations, take them into psychologists’ offices or share conversations with experts on mental well-being. These four shows might help you reflect on your feelings or simply provide insights about mental health and the human psyche you didn’t know before.
When you think of the word “madness,” what comes to mind? Nurse Ratched? Ophelia, Act IV? Much of pop culture has shaped the way society views mental illness, and that representation is the focus of “Mad Chat,” hosted by Sandy Allen. In each of the first season’s 10 episodes, Allen — who is trans and nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns — and a guest break downdepictions of “neurodivergence,” a term to describe brains that function significantly differently from the prevailing societal standard of “normal,” in film, television and cultural traditions. In one episode, the comedian Yassir Lester helps Allen dissect the depictions of masculine emotional expression in the ’90s cartoon “Batman: The Animated Series.” In another, Tracy Clayton, the former co-host of the “Another Round” podcast, joins Allen to assess the “psych-ward escaped patient” costumes that turn up each year on Halloween. While this could sound serious and scolding, the result is not. Listening feels like hanging out with two of your smartest and funniest friends.
The journalist Tonya Mosley loves giving and getting advice. But different gender, racial and sexual identities and the intersections between them generate different challenges. So Mosley and her team at the San Francisco-based public radio station KQED created “Truth Be Told,” an advice show for people of color, by people of color. In every episode, Mosley offers answers how to “be you in a world that doesn’t always want you to be.” Along with her in-the-field reporting, Mosley invites a roster of guests to deliver guidance on issues ranging from grieving a deported family member to how to handle it if you feel as if you’re not good enough. The show also weighs in on listener-submitted questions. The overall effect is calming and affirming, no matter your background.
This show is similar to the popular “Where Should We Begin” podcast, where a couples therapist, Esther Perel, brings listeners into her sessions with clients. But where Perel translates and explains one partner’s underlying motivations to the other, in “Other People’s Problems” the host and therapist Hillary McBride delivers the same prodding questions to her patients one-on-one. Through her thoughtful, curious and deeply empathetic approach, McBride guides her patients through navigating fear and trauma, absolving themselves of guilt, bridling their anxiety and conquering perfectionism. By letting listeners be a fly on the wall for each patient’s journey, “Other People’s Problems” is perhaps especially illuminating for those who have never been to therapy and wonder what it might really be like.
In “No Feeling Is Final,” the Australian artist and mental health advocate Honor Eastly conveys her own experience of having overwhelming suicidal thoughts. The six-part memoir weaves Eastly’s darkly funny narration with diary entries, scene recreations and even recordings of panic attacks to lead the listener into the abyss and back out again. The villain of the story is Eastly’s internal monologue, which she calls “The Voice,” and its threatening presence that saps her will to live and leads her to a psychiatric ward. Along the way, she depicts the chaotic process of finding the right treatment, the limits of “just asking for help” and the obstacles one faces in trying to overcome inner demons. Though it deals with heavy subject matter, the power of “No Feeling Is Final” is in the case it makes for going on living.