I’ve been listening avidly to the first season of The Mental Podcast this week. It’s hosted by comedian Ian Boldsworth (also known as Ray Peacock), but it’s not always a particularly funny podcast. In it, Boldsworth brings in friends and loved ones to talk about mental health — his and theirs, and broader issues on the topic.
As you can probably tell from the name, it’s an irreverent show that doesn’t pay much mind to using ableist language, so you may want to avoid it if that’s a concern for you. It also gets into a lot of difficult or mature topics, including suicide and self harm, drug and alcohol use, and sex. And one more warning: these aren’t mental health professionals, so their comments definitely should not be taken as medical advice. If you’re comfortable with all of that, it’s a fascinating and often relatable listen.
The first episode is a uniquely personal one. In it, Boldsworth sits down with a former roommate to talk about how they each experienced his depression — what Boldsworth experienced internally, and what his roommate experienced from the outside. During the period that they shared an apartment Boldsworth dealt with some particularly dark times, including suicidality, and it’s remarkable to hear their separate insights on that time.
In the remaining episodes, Boldsworth’s guests share their own mental health experiences, talking about dealing with depression, exploring therapy and medication through the NHS, managing relationships with mental health issues and ASD, navigating ever-changing diagnoses, and heaps more.
Boldsworth wasn’t entirely comfortable creating the series, as you may be able to imagine. Opening up about mental health is hard — opening up to all of your fans and everyone on the Internet is a lot harder. Last week, he shared his worries about the series over at The Guardian.
If you deal with mental health issues of any sort, talking about them is often a struggle, especially with all the stigma around them. It turns out, putting them out there for the world to hear is even more tricky. Nonetheless, after years of producing podcasts that stretched idiocy to previously unchartered territories, I recently did precisely this and released my first semi-serious project, all about discussing and sharing personal experiences of dealing with mental health problems.
Three days after it was released, I’d still not listened to the completed series myself. Despite being the presenter and producer, I’d slightly bottled it.
Those closest to me will tell you that I was battling a real anxiety in the lead-up to releasing the full series of The Mental Podcast, and that I’d already made my excuses to them. Every time somebody said they were looking forward to it I told them not to, and my initial promotional tweets had a cautionary, apologetic feel of “you may like this, you may not”. For the record, I’ve never had any issues talking about mental health stuff, always more than happy to casually drop it into an interview or real-life conversation, but with this new series, as the release date loomed closer, I started to get worried about it.
Fortunately for Boldsworth and for us, the end result is both powerful and decently successful. If you’re interested in listening to The Mental Podcast, it’s available for free on iTunes.