Podcasts that Stand-up for Mental Health
When it comes to good mental health, comedians really can help. Discover four of our favourite comedy podcasts navigating everything from grief to obsessive thoughts, including a brand new pod from Juliette Burton
Now in its third series, Cariad Lloyd's Griefcast is exactly as billed: 'comedians talking about death'. Yet it is also so much more. Recurring themes of connection, therapy, forgiveness, enduring love and the central acknowledgement that loss is a universal experience make this a valuable listen even for those with no real interest in comedy. Although, humour is never far away during the conversations and there’s plenty of laughter on offer here. Of particular note is Michael Legge’s discussion of losing his dog Jerk in 2017. It's a kind of bereavement often overlooked and rarely discussed, but familiar to anyone who has lost a beloved animal companion.
In each episode of Boy’s Don’t Cry, Russell Kane hosts a panel of comedic speakers to tackle an issue which, according to the blurb, 'men spend their lives avoiding'. With male suicides at such high levels, it’s a noble and timely venture. It's also one that doesn’t shirk from awkward topics, is peppered with moments of unexpected sensitivity, and amuses as much as it provokes. Episodes to date consider anger, infidelity, the concept of the alpha male, and the dialogue between men and women in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
Following her well-received account of her own battle with depression, and a profile-boosting run on Strictly Come Dancing, Susan Calman fronts a BBC podcast aiming to take a lighter look at mental illness. Initially commissioned for eight episodes, at the time of writing, four have been released. Calman leads the discussions with each guest comedian on their own experience of mental health conditions with warmth and assuredness, suggesting this could become a much longer running enterprise. In the inaugural episode, Jordan Brookes discusses with frankness his struggle with 'pure OCD', a term for a variant of the condition consisting of rumination on disturbing and intrusive thoughts, which are sometimes violent or sexual in nature but which can feel alien to the person experiencing the condition. Though it is less well known than the more compulsive cases of the disorder, it’s no less debilitating and summed up here in suitably amusing but devastatingly accurate detail.
Another stalwart Fringe performer known for turning her personal mental health struggles into heartfelt comedy, Juliette Burton – in conjunction with the charity Rethink (for whom Burton is an ambassador) – is due to front an initial run of five episodes of this podcast, in which she aims to highlight the positive aspects of living well with a mental illness. Guests include speaker and author Jonny Benjamin, who famously launched a social media campaign to locate and thank the passerby whose intervention saved him from taking his own life, as well as author and advocate for mood-boosting nutritional health Rachel Kelly. Following a candid discussion with each individual guest about their own experience, the second segment focuses on exploring something the guest feels has been of significant help to them in managing their condition.