According to Edison Research, there are more podcast listeners than ever, with 64% of the US 12+ population having ever listened to a podcast. With over half a million active podcasts available, more time is being devoted to mental health discussions. However, little is known about the motivation and experiences of people listening to mental health related material in podcasts.

Joining us today are Dr. Sharon Lambert and Naoise Ó Caoilte from University College Cork in Ireland, who have studied the motivations and experiences of mental health-related podcast listeners. Their recent paper is entitled “Podcasts as a Tool for Enhancing Mental Health Literacy: An Investigation of Mental Health-Related Podcasts,” and it appears in the journal Mental Health & Prevention.

In this interview, we discuss the importance of mental health literacy and ask if the need for honest mental health experiences is being met from the recording studio rather than the consulting room.

The transcript below has been edited for length and clarity. Listen to the audio of the interview here.


James Moore: Sharon and Naoise, thank you so much for joining me today for the Mad in America podcast. Before we get to talk about your fascinating study, could I ask you both to introduce yourselves and say a little about what you do at University College Cork?

Dr. Sharon Lambert: I am a psychologist and academic researcher. I research and teach applied psychology at UCC and my areas of interest are the relationship between psychological trauma and traumatic experiences in a very broad sense. So, that includes things like poverty and social exclusion, and how that impacts thinking, learning, and behavior. I’m particularly interested in how people design and deliver services so that everybody can use them and that came from working in the community with socially-excluded groups.

Naoise Ó Caoilte: I am a recent graduate of the Master’s at University College Cork in applied psychology and mental health and it was there that we started this piece of research. Sharon and I became interested in exploring some of the podcast listeners’ experiences. At the moment, I work for the Health Service Executive here in Ireland, as part of the primary care psychology team.

Moore: Why were you interested in studying what podcast listening might be doing for people’s knowledge and beliefs about mental disorders?

Lambert: I suppose it came about as a conversation. I have appeared on mental health-related podcasts before and my experience of being a guest on those podcasts was that people would contact you afterwards and say “I heard you speaking on such and such podcast, I’ve been struggling a lot, and it was the first time that I’d ever connected my social context like poverty. I’d always thought that maybe it’s just something fundamentally not good enough about me.”

So, I suppose there was a bit of sadness around that that the most socially excluded people are the ones who don’t have access to that information.

Then I saw a newspaper article that was criticizing podcasts. It said, “Is this a good thing? You have all of these people online talking about mental health and people who have mental health issues listening, is that a good idea?” I thought, well, my experience of it is that it has been positive but I don’t know, because we don’t have the research. So Naoise and I were chatting and he listens to a lot of podcasts so, we came up with the idea and went with it.

Ó Caoilte: As a student at the time studying psychology, I was also on placement, working with families in the foster care system here, and what I took away from listening to podcasts during that time was hearing people’s lived experiences. People who may have experienced coming through the care system or people sharing their mental health stories. That gave me an insight into the therapeutic process and the psychological world that you maybe don’t necessarily get from books, for example.

So, from that sort of professional development point of view, I found podcasts to be really beneficial for me.

Moore: Could we talk a little bit about the approach you took for the paper and your results?

Lambert: As Naoise said, we had a great conversation about podcasts and what I was hearing about what people were getting from podcasts, and then Naoise brought this extra perspective, “Actually, it’s not just people who are struggling who are gaining from it. It’s also students, potentially, getting professional development.

So, we were thinking about all of the different groups that are listening to podcasts and what they might be getting from them. Naoise had a look at the literature and he found that there was almost nothing there. So, we created a survey; Naoise worked really hard in getting that survey out and over 722 responded.

What was interesting was that every time I do a survey for research, I always put in this box at the end that says, “Any other comments.” No one ever fills it out and if they do, they might say, “That was a stupid effing survey,” or something like that. It’s never really that meaningful, to be honest, but I was persistent and put in that little comment box, hoping that somebody would fill it in.

We were blown away by the comments, the amount of them, the level of engagement with that particular section and the quality of the information that people gave about their experiences. I can talk about that in a minute if Naoise, perhaps, you might want to come in and talk about the survey findings and the statistical analysis that you did.

Ó Caoilte: So, we asked participants about their demographic profile: education, annual household income, et cetera, as well as their motivations for listening to mental health podcasts, and their personal experience with mental health. We asked whether they’ve accessed mental health services before, and then, finally, what their experiences of listening to mental health podcasts were.

The results are quite interesting when you look at why people listen to podcasts. We found that above all, it was out of a desire to learn about oneself and to learn about mental health more generally. When you do a piece of research like this, you’re always interested in what are the differences in people’s responses based on their demographic profile. One of the patterns that we began to identify was that for participants in lower educational brackets, i.e. those who also tend to have poor mental health literacy and knowledge of mental health, they reported using podcasts to learn about themselves and their mental health much more than their more educated counterparts. Whereas those in higher education brackets reported using podcasts for entertainment much more.

This was quite an interesting and promising result, I think because it maybe shows that those who need it most are taking the most away from listening to podcasts. That was a trend that followed throughout the whole paper, even down to when we asked people about their experiences. Those in the lower educational bracket, as well as I believe those with lower annual household income, reported that their experiences were more based around learning new information and skills.

When we asked them about their experiences, the most rated statement was that they learned new information and skills. After that, it was that podcasts help normalize problems and foster connections. What I see in that is that normalization of problems is really a destigmatization and creating connections is maybe creating a validation and a sense of community amongst listeners. There is so much rich data within that qualitative piece that really brings the statistics alive as well.

Lambert: As Naoise said, the highest-rated item in the survey was for new information. One of the criticisms of podcasts was, is there a danger that people who have mental health difficulties are sitting at home, listening to podcasts, doing some kind of therapy on themselves, and not seeking professional support. Is that dangerous?

So, one of the items asked was, do you use podcast listening to process difficult emotions? The results showed it was not an issue. So, that kind of ruled out that concern. As Naoise said, the statistics he outlined are super interesting because what it did show is that people who are from lives of lower socioeconomic status who do find it difficult to access services and who are often shut out from education as well, they are gaining a huge amount in terms of mental health literacy.

They were starting to realize that these struggles that they were having, lots of people have them too, and that it did make them feel more connected and especially in the data around COVID. Lots of people were very isolated and that they felt quite connected to particular podcasters or some of their guests.

What people liked actually was a mix of guests. They liked the mix of hearing a professional by education speak about a particular difficulty or challenge. Then somebody with lived experience might come on and say, “I experienced a traumatic event. This is the impact it had on my life and these are the different kinds of barriers that I had in terms of accessing support, and then this is how I did on my recovery journey.”

So, that real raw sense of reality because sometimes when we present lived experience in professional environments, we bring on people who are successful in their recovery and it’s often presented as “This is amazing and this is how easy it is, and everything is great.” What you don’t often hear in those contexts is the fact that it isn’t a linear journey, that there have been lots of setbacks and that there are lots of barriers. One of the things with independent podcasts is that people are, I guess, not restricted in terms of being really honest about what worked and what didn’t work.

So, when we looked at the qualitative data we came up with five overall themes and they were around accessibility (and accessibility means a couple of different things which I’ll come to in a minute), mental health literacy, some potential pitfalls, reassurance, and lived experiences.

So, in terms of accessibility, it meant two different things. There was the practical element. So, the podcast content is free and I can access it any time that I want without geographical, financial, or transport barriers. The second point around accessibility was actually the language being used. So, people are speaking to me in a way that I understand and if I don’t understand it, I can listen to that episode two or three times, until I do understand it.

Moore: That’s so important, isn’t it? It’s theoretical but the paper says that if people attend a service, they might get a crisis response and the medical professional might be just responding to their symptoms. There is no time to talk about social factors and all the other things that might have led them there, but podcasts allow people to absorb that information in their own space and time.

Lambert: A big feature of that accessibility was the language being used because you often had lay people, people with lived experience who would say, “I have experienced this and what that means is that,” so there wasn’t that assumed knowledge that perhaps sometimes happens in other consultations. When people do go to appointments, they can be embarrassed to say, “I don’t understand what you’re saying and I’ve never heard what that word is,” so they can just sometimes nod and agree and then leave, and particularly people in addiction services feel a lot of shame and stigma. So, if you’re there and somebody says something and you don’t know this, it’s another thing to feel ashamed about. So, being able to access that information was important.

So, one of the themes was potential pitfalls. Now if you were being academically rigorous, you wouldn’t have included this theme at all. There were five criticisms out of 722, where somebody said a potential negative. Naoise said, “Look, it has been said. It’s important to these people so let’s report those potential pitfalls.”

So, one person said that they had obsessive-compulsive disorder and what had happened for them was a podcast had become part of a compulsion and they had to listen a lot and that person was a professional. They said that they were concerned about non-professionals being involved in podcasting, but of course, that’s their bias there in terms of their professional training. Can you remember the others, Naoise?

Ó Caoilte: It was one or two around what you mentioned there about podcast hosts and guests not having professional expertise and then, potentially the issues with podcasts not being regulated, and the concerns of, I guess, individuals who worried about misinformation, particularly in the context of mental health where it’s important not to spread misinformation.

So, they were valid concerns and while there were few, they were worth looking at and worth reporting because even though in our sample there were only five or six people, I’m sure that out there, there are more who are concerned.

Lambert: I think it was three people that said they were concerned about professionals not doing this stuff, and that it might be a non-professional, whatever that is. One of the quotes was, “I do think with a lot of access to professional services and increased availability of podcasts, there is a risk that people can take a podcast host’s advice as seriously as they would take a health care professional’s advice.” So, I suppose the problem there is assuming that the health care professional’s advice is always right, all the time, and sometimes it’s not, but actually, the data did not indicate that that’s what was happening.

What it did indicate was that listening to podcasts wasn’t making people not look for help in different places and spaces. It actually was increasing help-seeking behavior. The other quote here is, “I am less hard on myself. Podcasts have encouraged me to open up and speak about my issues.”

Moore: In the paper, it says that research indicated that mental health literacy is positively associated with help-seeking behaviors and negatively associated with stigma, shame and negative attitudes towards mental health. That’s so important, isn’t it, because podcasts, I guess, give a non-medical space for people to discuss really uncomfortable and difficult thoughts or feelings, without necessarily feeling that things have to be labeled from a medical standpoint. They can talk in purely human terms, can’t they? So, I can see how mental health literacy might seem like it’s a medicalized thing, but it isn’t, it is reducing stigma, making people more likely to seek help if they need it.

Lambert: Yes, there is a lovely quote here from one of the participants, and it says, “While I’ve suffered from depression for 10 years now, I sometimes still struggle to describe it to family and friends. Listening to peers sharing their journeys has helped me gain both the language and confidence to speak more about my lived experience.” I mean, we could be here for hours, James, reading out some of the quotes because they were just so powerful.

Ó Caoilte: What you mentioned there, Sharon, about the lived experiences, it ties into people questioning the expertise of podcast guests. I think the addiction services know this and have known this for a long time, which is that even though they might not have professional qualifications, people with lived experiences or peer support workers can be just as valuable to the therapeutic and the recovery process as professionals, and in addiction recovery programs, peer support is a huge part of it.

What we’ve found was that our participants who were listening to lived experiences were getting a sense sometimes of hope, sometimes of connection, and sometimes of community when they hear somebody. A really important aspect of that as well is that they hear somebody who looks like them or who sounds like them, and maybe is from the same socioeconomic background as them. When they hear that person share a story that resonates with them, that has a therapeutic power in and of itself.

Moore: That’s so important, and as you mentioned earlier that there are virtually no barriers to accessing these podcasts. They are easy to get hold of and easy to consume in a time that matters for them and they can listen multiple times. Or, if they are struggling in the middle of the night, there is somebody comforting there that they could listen to.
The point about misinformation, I find really interesting, because, as we know at Mad in America, there are examples out there of professionally-produced podcasts where there is misinformation being given. Maybe they are talking about chemical imbalances or maybe they are talking about areas of mental health as if it’s settled science, when it isn’t really. Equally on the other side, we are aware that there are paid influencers out there that might be covertly funded by pharmaceutical companies.
So, I guess misinformation is a concern but part of me also thinks that talking about the full range of experiences and possibly considering what might or might not be misinformation, and the freedom of podcasts as a platform to do that is probably quite a healthy thing too, isn’t it?

Lambert: Yes, because if we think about humans as biopsychosocial beings as we are, we exist within a social context. I do believe that it’s shifting and changing in psychology, not as fast as probably some people would like, but there is more of an increasing understanding of social context. For example, how poverty is a driver for mental distress and how that should be responded to. That’s not a psychological disorder, it is somebody who is deeply distressed because they are living in a really difficult situation and maybe at risk of homelessness or in homelessness. So, their distress is appropriate for the situation that they are in. That conversation is happening. It’s shifting, it’s changing, and I know folks in Mad in America have been talking about it for a very long time and would prefer those conversations happened faster.

What brings it back to the podcast is that people are perhaps interfacing with different disciplines and models of understanding mental health. I know that you would say within Mad in America, there are particular diagnoses that are not helpful, and I would agree with you on lots of that. Then sometimes I worry about that because there are people who receive a diagnosis and for them, it’s a relief. Then I think for me as a psychologist, I have to be really careful that you don’t come along and say, “That thing that you have, there is this big group of people who don’t believe that that exists,” and that can be quite devastating.

So, how you can manage that in a way that is helpful is through conversations around different perspectives. So, some people would have a very biological understanding of mental health, some people would have a very psychological understanding of mental health. I’d probably fall more on a social understanding of mental health, but I need to understand all of them. I think for people who might be having difficulty, once they start to improve their own mental health literacy by access to this information then what they do is they start to say I’m learning a lot and I want to learn more. So then, they will start to listen to different perspectives and they will learn about things they might not have learned about before, like the social determinants of health and how poverty is one of the biggest predictors of addiction and poor mental health.

So, I think that podcasts do create that space. I do think that what they are doing is saying here are a host of multiple different perspectives. Then sometimes we underestimate people’s ability to be able to sit back and say, that’s really interesting, I haven’t thought about it like that. Where does that fit with me? For me, what matters is what you need in order to go on your recovery journey, what works for you.

Moore: People can find experiences that resonate with their own experience, can’t they, which is so important to not feel isolated and to feel connected. There are people out there who’ve had broadly similar experiences and it was interesting to learn how they thought about it or dealt with it, or haven’t dealt with it, or whatever else. So, that kind of menu approach of having a range of views to choose from is so important, I feel.

Ó Caoilte: On that piece about feeling isolated, like you mentioned James, I did a quick search on the qualitative data earlier today and the words “not alone” together come up over 120 times. That was one of the major takeaways under the qualitative theme of reassurance and validation, was that sense of feeling not alone and not isolated in your mental health issues. People kept saying things like, “I’ve realized that everybody struggles,” or “I’ve developed compassion for myself and others because I’ve been able to understand my struggles in the context of maybe my past experiences.”

Moore: I couldn’t help but identify myself with so much written in the paper, firstly as someone who runs a podcast, but secondly as someone who has had mental health struggles and got into podcasting precisely because I felt alone and disconnected, and couldn’t easily leave the house. So, I really do value the space that podcasts can fill that professionals couldn’t do even if they wanted to. They wouldn’t have the time or resources available to do that.
It’s a brilliant and fascinating piece of work that you’ve both done together and with your co-authors. I wondered if you had any thoughts about whether there are further developments of this work. Is there more that could be done with looking at the role of podcasts in helping people come to terms with their thoughts, knowledge, and beliefs about mental disorders?

Lambert: Currently, I have a master’s student who is looking at the role of podcasts in probation clients. So, these are people who have experienced difficulty with the criminal justice system. Where that came from, actually, was an Irish-based podcast called The Two Norries. The hosts of the podcast were both in recovery from addiction, but have had significant experience with the criminal justice system, including periods of imprisonment.

Like you, James, their podcast emerged during the first lockdown, because the support structures that were available to them to maintain their recovery were gone. So, they were worried about themselves and they were worried about their community because they are from an area of socioeconomic deprivation. So they had this idea to set up a podcast, which they did in Timmy’s shed in his back garden.

What happened then was there were no visits allowed into the prisons. So the prison service started playing The Two Norries podcast into the cells. Then the psychology service in the Irish Prison Service started to notice that people were developing a language that they probably wouldn’t have gotten if you gave them something to read, a more formal produced document from a health service, for example. They were saying, “This is really interesting because people who are in custody now are coming, looking for the psychology service and they are using words like I experienced this difficulty and it was a trauma, and it might be linked to my addiction and other social problems that I’m having.”

So, Dr. Reagan from the Irish Prison Service liaised a lot and continues to liaise with The Two Norries podcast around the impact that it’s having in the prison service. So then, that led me to think about people when they’ve left custody and they are now linking with a probation officer. So, my current master’s student, Sally Condon, has interviewed probation officers about do they think podcasts are a useful tool for probation officers.

She’s just finished her analysis and she is writing up her dissertation. It’s not published yet but what was interesting was it is really similar to Naoise’s findings. She deliberately didn’t read Naoise’s paper in case it would impact how she might think about themes. So, when she came to me and said, “These are the themes that have come from the data,” it was so interesting because they are very similar to the themes that come from Naoise’s paper.

So, I suppose, primarily what they notice, probation officers, was that people who were struggling with mental health and addiction difficulties, and that was leading them to involvement with the criminal justice system, they were turning up to meetings and they were having entirely different conversations now. So, the chaos that they were experiencing in their personal lives was starting to make sense, and once they had access to the information, then it became this thing that was in their awareness and that they could do something with.

Ó Caoilte: Something that we saw reflected in the results was clinicians and healthcare professionals who were reporting using podcasts in whatever healthcare setting they are in or using them as resources for clients. So, that’s something that’s reflected in the literature as well, not to a large extent, but we discuss that and feel that there would be a lot of value in speaking to professionals, as well as speaking to people like yourself, podcast creators, to get their perspective and experience on that. I think that would give another side to this research as well, which I think would be really meaningful.

The other thing that we felt would be very valuable is in some way getting a quantitative measure of the impact of listening to mental health podcasts and maybe measuring mental health literacy using a scale. That would be an experimental design, I guess, something maybe at the end of the road.

Moore: Before we come to the end of this, Sharon, you mentioned the comment box that you put at the end of the survey. We need to do that on podcasts too. Was there anything else related to the paper that you think important to share with the listeners?

Lambert: I suppose the most important thing that we heard was for the vast majority podcasts are a positive thing. They are positive in terms of being available, the language that’s being used is understandable, the varying experiences and perspectives that people are exposed to. So it’s not just one particular perspective or one model or one life experience, that it’s a whole vast range of all of the different things that can go on in this space and then that is contributing to the development of mental health literacy.

Knowledge is power and people can make decisions for themselves when they have access to knowledge, and people are feeling less alone, they are feeling more connected. Their experiences are more normalized. It is decreasing stigma. It is increasing help-seeking behavior, and they are just an incredible resource for people.

Ninety-nine point nine per cent of the experiences are just incredibly positive and I see a quote that just popped up in front of me here, “It demystifies mental health emotional issues. I learned so much about myself and others. I find it’s helpful at building empathy when you hear about all the people’s troubles and stories.”

So, not only did people increase their compassion towards themselves, they increased their empathy for others, and that’s important too that when we increase our self-compassion for ourselves, then we also have empathy for others, because that’s what will make you a happy, healthy human being, is being able to love yourself and to love others.

Moore: Thank you both. I am so pleased to be able to talk to you about this because to have podcasts for mental health validated in this way is really important. The sense of connection they bring, the demystification that goes on, that the kind of discussion around the margins of what you might hear in a therapy appointment or an appointment with a professional. The fact that you can broaden your understanding by listening to a range of experiences is so valuable and it’s a genuinely fascinating piece of work. Thank you both so much for doing it and for being willing to join me to talk about it.

Lambert: Thank you, James.

Ó Caoilte: Thanks so much for having us on.


MIA Reports are supported, in part, by a grant from The Thomas Jobe Fund.


  1. l am live in the turkey and l requsted to commit suicide because there is not right to conscientious objection in the county. the state in the county always strive to military service us by force.afterwards they took away hospital me . the doctor said me ‘ very good and request to speak a psychiatry’ l did not request but my mother requested. afterwards l and mother went to psychiatry and l said to psychiatry ‘ l am very good’ . my mother took out me from the room. my mother did not know that what did she explain in the room. afterwards policemen’s hospital imprisoned by force me. l said ‘ take out me and take out me’. they did not take out me from there. l said for take out’ l hear a voice l see hallucination’.this were lie. l were not know that this is schizophrenia. l diagnosed schizophrenia for lie by psychiatry.aftewards l said to lie the psychiatry. she(psychiatry) applied psychological pressure me. l understand that psychiatry is a fake science. psychiatrists always request the mental health law even though they were forcibly imprisoned a weak people in turkey. crimininal is my mother and the state and family and community. psychiatry always covers up human rights violations

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      • Yes, Birdsong, state-sanctioned, coercive, contemporary Western psychiatry is, indeed human rights abuse, and proof that we do not enjoy any “inalienable” human rights whatsoever as long as it continues.

        One day soon, perhaps, the UN, the European Court of Human Rights and Amnesty International may find the wisdom and the courage to acknowledge just this fact, rather than continuing to condone human rights abuse.

        The following quotes have been attributed to the late Thomas Szasz, once professor of psychiatry and author of “The Myth of Mental Illness:”

        “Psychiatry does not commit human rights abuse. It is a human rights abuse.

        It’s not science. It’s politics and economics. That’s what psychiatry is: politics and economics. Behavior control, it is not science, it is not medicine.

        It’s an epidemic of psychiatry that we are dealing with. We don’t have an epidemic of mental illness, we have an epidemic of psychiatry.

        When will we recognize and publicly identify the medical criminals among us? Or is it the very possibility of perceiving many of our leading psychiatrists and psychiatric institutions in this way precluded by the fact that they represent the officially ‘correct’ views and practices. Is it precluded because they have the ears of our lawyers and legislators, journalists and judges? Or is it precluded because they are control the vast funds, collected by the state through taxing the citizens, which finance an enterprise whose basic moral legitimacy we should call into question?

        Psychiatry is probably the single most destructive force that has affected the society within the last sixty years.

        The task we set ourselves — to combat psychiatric coercion — is important. It is a noble task in the pursuit of which we must, regardless of obstacles, persevere. Our conscience commands that we do no less.

        …all psychiatry is coercive, actually or potentially — because once a person walks into a psychiatrist’s office, under certain conditions, that psychiatrist has the legal right and the legal duty to commit that person. The psychiatrist has the duty to prevent suicide and murder. The priest hearing confession has no such duty. The lawyer and the judge have no such duties. No other person in society has the kind of power the psychiatrist has. And that is the power of which psychiatrists must be deprived, just as white men had to be deprived of the power to enslave black men.”

        Thank you, Birdsong, for your seemingly unwavering dedication to the noble cause to which Thomas Szasz devoted his life’s work, also.


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  2. “…because that’s what will make you a happy, healthy human being, is being able to love yourself and to love others.” – Sharon Lambert.

    “Dilige et quod vis fac. (Love and then what you will, do.)” ― Saint Augustine of Hippo.

    And, surely, if he lived and had any sense, at all, let alone was the magnificent teacher of psychology I suspect he was, then Jesus of Nazareth would have tried to explain that we do, naturally, all always love our neighbors just as we love ourselves, rather than, as misreported, I believe, vainly and stupidly instructing or commanding folks to do so, or even to try to do so.

    (“As you live your life, you judge your neighbor! – Patrick Pat, “The White Fellah,” Boyle, Dooey South, Lettermacaward, Co. Donegal, Ireland.)

    If, also, Jesus’s reported “Deny thy self,” meant Deny your ego, meaning Observe your mind: witness, observe and understand how your thoughts and emotions happen, and so transcend your mind and undergo that transformation of consciousness referred to as “metanoia/repentance,” then, by pointing to “mindfulness” and self-awareness as the means to liberation/salvation and permanent escape from “sin”/error/suffering, he was saying what Sharon found the glowing courage to state at the conclusion of this wonderful interview (thank you!).

    And if by his “Seek first The Kingdom,” he meant “Be ‘mindful:’ seek that higher level of consciousness than the thinking, emoting (monkey) mind,” I think he was encouraging us to view the machinations of our minds with humor, love and understanding, rather than labeling them sinful or disordered, given that The Kingdom of Heaven” or of the heavens, the skies, may have been Jesus’s way of speaking of the realm of (no-mind) formless (and fearless) consciousness, or spaciousness or what some Buddhists call emptiness, as Eckhart Tolle suggests.

    Of course, we can and do only love (or hate) others as we love (or hate) ourselves, for that is surely our essential human nature: “To love is to recognize oneself in another.”

    “Every life is in many days, day after day. We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love, but always meeting ourselves.” — James Joyce, “Ulysses.”

    Clearly, insight and understanding, shared lived experiences via podcasts can contribute inestimably to this, but can any continued, uncritical, unthinking use of spurious, pseudo-medical, diagnostic terms – either by professionals or others?

    What tomes or whole libraries of (supposedly) learned tomes might not have been justifiably thrown out when that Augustinian gem was arrived at?

    Ditto with “e = mc squared?”

    Ditto with “physical pain = sensation + the emotion of fear?”

    Ditto with “mental illness /disorder is a complete misnomer” (and not just dual diagnosis, Sharon, if you are here!)

    When I had come away from a WHO website gloating that, of course, even the WHO could not come up with any decent attempt at any definition of “mental health” or or “mental illness,” let alone one of any “mental disorder” or “personality disorder,” our then 16-year-old Elizabeth immediately retorted:

    “PersonALity disorder?! Ya can’t have a personALity disorder! Your personALity? That’s, like, who you ARE! That’s like, THEEE rudest thing – EH-VUR!”

    While I don’t actually believe that we any of us have a single persona or personality, let alone that that is who we are, I applauded Liz’s instantaneous response and begged permission to quote it.

    “La folie, c’est de n’avoir pas d’autres normes que soi-même
    Madness is Conforming to One’s Own Norms, and No Others”

    “The human condition: lost in thought.” – Eckhart Tolle in “Stillness Speaks.”

    The human condition IS a mental condition.

    But “mindfulness” (about which I see Sharon has also written), that other complete misnomer, can enable us to observe and to understand and so to forgive and to transcend that condition, together.

    Previously, when penitents confessed to “sins” such as despair or sloth or pride or greed or drunkenness or gluttony or lust, they might expect to be absolved of those sins in Confession and, perhaps, to feel much better about themselves for a while, at least – no matter how certain they felt that they might recommit those “sins.”

    “No man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks.” – Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.

    “…therefore, let every man lay hand upon his heart and not pretend to mistake night for day for day for night [or “white for black and black for white” or “a hawk for a handsaw”], for we are all as God made us and many of us [or “and frequently”] much worse.” – Sancho Panza, in “Don Quixote,” by Miguel de Cervantes.

    Nowadays, at least in the West which once comprised Christendom, some may surely some gain temporary solace from being handed a diagnosis of some “mental disorder/s” and/or “personality disorders,” which account, supposedly, for their errant ways, through no moral fault, but rather some innate flaw, of their own.

    Very shortly, I believe, we will see that both belief systems – that our suffering is caused by our inherent wickedness and tendency to “sin” and that our suffering/waywardness/unhappiness/angst is due to some as yet wholly obscure but definitely bio/psycho/social/spiritual disorder affecting our brains – are equally spurious and equally demonstrably so.

    Health professionals have long been taught that we humans (like other noncephalopods) possess peripheral pain-receptors or nociceptors, supposed sensory nerve endings which are able to tell us that we have been stimulated by some “tissue-damaging or potentially tissue-damaging stimulus or stimuli.”

    But any and every sensory stimulus is either tissue-damaging or potentially so. Obviously.

    And no sensory stimulus can elicit a pain response unless it provokes fear/resistance.

    And fear/resistance is a function not of our sensory nerve endings but of our brains, or minds.

    And who is to tell us that what we regard as painful ought not be so experienced by us?

    Similarly, what was until recently called a “mental illness” (but never, to my knowledge, a “personality illness,” mind you), is now called a “mental disorder” or a “personality disorder,” if not both.

    Yet we each of us has our own unique, natural, normal or usual response/s to any stress/es, “toxic” or otherwise which we experience. Indeed, emotionally speaking, a stress or trauma IS only stress or trauma if so perceived/interpreted/experienced.

    “Nobody can hurt me without my permission.” – Mahatma Gandhi, reportedly, but speaking as an “awakened” or “spiritually conscious” individual, presumably.

    To assert that anyone’s response to what they consider stressors is “abnormal” – FOR THEM – is very like saying that someone speaks with an accent: Who does NOT?

    Absent objectively identifiable/verifiable neural/brain/”neurological” disease – that is to say, true disease/s of the brain, rather than supposed disease or disorder of the mind, whatever that might be – how can there possibly be ANY abnormal, pathological, unnatural, diseased or disordered response to stressful circumstances?

    Because some may appear to derive some temporary satisfaction and/or relief from being handed any “mental disorder” diagnosis does not mean that we are not now capable of offering everyone far more powerful aid in understanding and so in alleviating or even ending/transcending their sufferings, their emotional pain.

    This wonderful interview has given me very great cause for hope that we are already doing just that, and thanks in no small measure to MIA and to podcasting.

    Heartfelt thanks to MIA, to James to Sharon and to Naoise.


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  3. if schizophrenia was caused by too much dopamine production and dopamine cannot be measured ın that case be measured prolactin by psychiatry because if dopamine rises in the brain prolactin decreases very much. dopamine and prolactin work against each other. the thing which this is being made is like taking diabetes medicine before not measuring diabetes

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  4. …I mean, the one-word answer to the question

    “If neither sin/wickedness nor brain or mind disease/disorder, then what causes most if not all human suffering?”

    can hardly be other than “ego?”

    If, much like physical pain, which is not one phenomenon but consists of

    sensation + fear,

    and which we have so misconstrued up until now,

    if the human psyche, similarly, is not one, but two, being composed of

    awareness + the mind,

    where “ego” is defined as our unobserved (by our “higher/deeper awareness) mind, left to its own (defensive) devices,

    then all our confusion about it may be resolved by understanding what folks like Eckhart Tolle, Herodotus, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Socrates, Jesus, Buddha, Francis and Clare of Assisi, Vibia Petua, Joan of Arc, Teresa of Avila, Hilda of Bingen, “Julian” of Norwich, Mirabai Starr and Sharon Lambert and all unconditionally loving moms and present day mystics of all and (especially, perhaps) of no religions have been trying to tell us?

    Ah, well, no doubt all will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.

    Comfort and joy, and much merriment.


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    • Tom,
      I think the famous people you mention had lots of wisdom, but imo, they missed the boat in their failure to see or understand the reality and magnitude of emotional trauma; in other words, they’re great at reaching grand conclusions but aren’t very good at telling people how to get there because I doubt any of them were ever aware enough to acknowledge and resolve their own painful feelings. Therefore, it’s my opinion that the greats of antiquity were as egotistical (and as unhealed) as the rest of us. Nevertheless, their wisdom is priceless in that all offer essentially the same message: refrain from judging others (or oneself) unfairly while remembering to treat oneself and others with respect, empathy and kindness.

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      • “I believe most psychic suffering comes from painful feelings (conscious and unconscious) that haven’t had the chance to be properly addressed and processed.”

        Birdsong, thanks a million for your two responses, that first, pasted above here, which I think is absolutely spot on.

        Perhaps you could expand on it a bit, please, maybe bearing in mind that, at least in my opinion, however sheltered and idyllic,

        everyone’s childhood, at least, IS an adverse event, is a series of traumas,

        and that, however privileged or otherwise it may seem to others,

        our lives all consist of experiences of trauma: the only true experiences IS “lived experience,”

        no one is immune, but, right now, we can all figure this out, together – don’t you think, for, where there is a loving will, there are always loving ways?

        Lastly, yes, indeed, and, however hard it may be to refrain from judging Big Pharma, Big Insurance, Big Coercive Psychiatry, as soon as we can do just that, and put our shoulders to helping one another process pain as purely and as powerfully as possible, perhaps all the doors may swing wide open, or dissolve entirely?

        “Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something,” said William Goldman’s (?) Dread Pirate Roberts, in “The Princess Bride,” with much justification, but perhaps, Birdsong, if we are brave enough, Life need not be – much longer?

        And perhaps we don’t always need to be selling stuff, either?

        Thanks a million, yet again.


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        • All children experience emotional pain in varying degrees at some point. But problems happen when it goes unrecognized. And that’s where looking at things honestly (with a loving will) becomes crucial. It’s something people have been trying to do in various ways for thousands of years with varying degrees of success through things like religion or artistic endeavors, and more recently through the idiocy of psychiatry or so-called “psychotherapy”.

          But I see no reason for anyone to refrain from judging Big Pharma, Big Psychiatry or Big Insurance because calling out wrongdoing, (intentional or not) is not only fair, but a moral obligation. And thankfully people are now learning through the internet that there’s other ways of dealing with their pain besides psychiatry’s medical model thanks to the honest communication of people on the internet who’ve found and are sharing alternatives. The cat’s finally been let out of the bag, thanks to the internet, which is something to rejoice about right now, imho.

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  5. Wonderfully written, Birdsong, thank YOU!

    And apologies for my yptos in my previous.

    Naturally, though, any perps or wrongdoers in all of those Bigs, much like any mass shooters (and you might like to comment on why a vast majority of them is male, please?) and all the rest, are no less victims and no more INTRINSICALLY “evil” or sick or disordered than our good selves, and no more miscreants” than any other human or other beings, you’ll agree – however misguided they may be?

    That is what I meant by not judging them: call them out, certainly , by all means, but preferably by loving means.

    Many insist on seeing us human beings as fallen, flawed, and less than perfect, often, as I see it, by misinterpreting/misunderstanding the teachings of Jesus, among others.

    I persist in trying to see us all as being at least infinitely beyond perfect, being at least infinitely, endlessly perfectIBLE.

    For two instances:

    I can’t possibly say if the man even lived, of course, but I love to belive that eh did, and that he may even have pointed out that all our “sins” or seeming flaws are indeed fore-given us – pre-agreed in advance of our every incarnation (or “intarnation”) in order for us to learn just what, when and as we wish and/or need, for whatever purpose/s or, though we may not yet have a word for something greater and deeper and more wonderful by far than Purpose or Meaning, shall we say Schlurpose or Zenning?

    “Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at the moment.” ― Eckhart Tolle, “A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose.”

    “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

    But please, please go on, and say more, Birdsong.

    Boutez en avant, beir bua, ubuntu, namaste and have a great day.

    And THANK YOU – again.


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  6. Tom,
    Thank you for your kind words.

    I don’t know why most mass shooters are male. But I do know that some people hold the belief that their spiritual path is predestined; whether or not that’s true isn’t something I’m concerned with one way or the other; I just don’t see things through a religious lens. But I do think the most challenging and important thing in life is to grow emotionally/spiritually because it can make life easier in a lot of ways for myself and other people.

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  7. Birdsong,

    I think what you have written is most extremely important and of incalculable potential value, and so, naturally, I do feel tremendously grateful for what you have already written, thank you. And sorry again for all those yptos. I do plan to amend my ways.

    You wrote:

    ‘All children experience emotional pain in varying degrees at some point. But problems happen when it goes unrecognized. And that’s where looking at things honestly (with a loving will) becomes crucial. It’s something people have been trying to do in various ways for thousands of years with varying degrees of success through things like religion or artistic endeavors, and more recently through the idiocy of psychiatry or so-called “psychotherapy”.’

    You say “unrecognized,” and speak of “looking at things honestly.”

    Some might use the term “processing” for dealing with painful emotions, including old, buried traumas, some of them maybe even “intergenerational stuff,” or collective (oppressed) female – or the residues left behind my such insults/assaults/traumas.

    Some dub that part of us which processes emotional stuff “spirit,” to distinguish it from the mind which generates but cannot itself deal with emotions.

    Like it or not, I think you may agree that the US continues to be a predominantly Puritan-inspired culture and also that Western-style democracies, in general, while they preach universal egalitarianism, continue to actually regard and to treat their citizens as good guys and gals and as bad guys and gals, as successes and as losers, as admirable and as despicable – all in a very traditionally judgmental, “Judeo-Christian” (but which I view as Judeo-Pauline) way.

    Yet, to give him credit, even Paul acknowledged that

    “But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light,” before going on to speak of “evil.”

    But, of course, if evil, darkness, pain, trauma or suffering can all be turned to light by being exposed to the light of our consciousness or Consciousness, then it can have no absolute reality, at all – can it?

    Thích Nhất Hạnh, for one, has pointed out that “what is not transmuted is transmitted.”

    Right here, Birdsong, I see you as in NO small measure helping to transmute to Light dark matters which you have long been enduring and suffering and studying and digesting and processing and laboring and writing to expose to Light, to Consciousness, to Love & Understanding, to Acknowledgement & Forgiveness…in other words, to what you rightly simply call…Resolution.

    As far as religion and spirituality go, you may well know that some say that the difference between religious and spiritual people is that the former kill each other, or that religious folks worry about Hell, whereas spiritual ty;pes have been through Hell, and that Eckhart Tolle has written that

    “Being spiritual has nothing to do with what you believe and everything to do with your state of consciousness.”
    I believe that those who have attained higher levels of consciousness can so help the rest of us to raise our own levels of consciousness, even if only for brief periods, that we begin to understand and transcend our common neuroses and addictions.

    In fact, I believe that the two interviewees above, Sharon and Caoilte, for instance, as well as James, their interviewer, along with you and Steve McCrae, for instance, are all very likely so advanced on your own spiritual journeys that, by “simply silently sitting in presence” with any susceptible individual, you are perfectly capable of helping that person to bring about that transformation of their consciousness which is all that is necessary in order to…………..

    If I google “What Is Your View on Angelic Forces? | Eckhart Tolle” , I get a message like Dolly parton’s reports advice, Birdsong:

    “Find out who y’are….and do it on PURPOSE!”

    I think all great teachers and writers, like Dolly Parton, have always been spiritual (rather than religious) teachers, one way or another, and I have great sympathy with John Steinbeck’s sentiments, for instance, when, according to , he said such things as that

    “The writer is delegated to declare and to celebrate man’s proven capacity for greatness of heart and spirit — for gallantry in defeat — for courage, compassion and love. In the endless war against weakness and despair, these are the bright rally-flags of hope and of emulation.
    I hold that a writer who does not passionately believe in the perfectibility of man, has no dedication nor any membership in literature.” – from his Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech.

    “To be alive at all is to have scars.”

    “I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. It might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.”

    ‘”It has always seemed strange to me,” said Doc. “The things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest are the traits of success.”‘

    “He didn’t believe in psychiatrists, he said. But actually he did believe in them, so much that he was afraid of them.”

    So, maybe you might like to say more about the process of processing emotions, please?

    Many and truly heartfelt thanks once more, Birdsong.


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  8. Tom,
    I think emotional trauma is healed (processed) by carefully grieving hurt and loss. And I think everyone is their own greatest teacher, or more precisely, their own greatest therapist. I also think everyone living life as authentically as possible is an artist, too, because to me art is just honestly expressing one’s feelings and emotions, which are, after all, the language of art, i.e., the human spirit, which is something that everyone has.

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  9. Birdsong, please forgive me: I had looked for but not found the following quote from your previous response before replying above.

    “I believe most psychic suffering comes from painful feelings (conscious and unconscious) that haven’t had the chance to be properly addressed and processed.”

    If)when you get a chance, could you ply expand on that?

    MANY thanks!


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  10. Tom,
    Processing (grieving/digesting) painful feelings takes time and patience. But feelings have a way of eventually running their course (processing) if given a chance to be felt.

    Processing happens in all sorts of ways, but I experience more relief from identifying with people on the internet than talking with a “therapist” or some mindless DSM diagnosis.

    I think this article shows the process often starts when people find podcasts they identify with.

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  11. Well said, thank you very much, Birdsong.

    I agree, and feel I owe Bob Whitaker, Steve McCrae and all in MIA the HUGEST debt.

    I find it tremendously helpful and encouraging to believe that as and when we do process stuff, the work we do has limitless value.

    Richard Madeley (of the BBC’s “Richard & Judy” fame and much more) spoke most movingly of how, when his mom helped him forgive his dad (as a ?9-year-old kid, wasn’t it?), he could feel the same forgiveness spilling or rippling back the generations…

    “The sins of the father…”

    Do you think that we may indeed nowadays perhaps be undoing the harm of countless preceding generations of ignorance and abuse, please, Birdsong, and, by so doing, making possible a great leap forward in our evolution?

    With great gratitude,


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  12. Oh, good.

    Because, obviously, I do, too.

    And, obviously, if it is, then the possibilities are not only at least endless, but at the very least beyond infinitely good – right?

    I once asked an old friend Who made God. His immediate, unhesitating answer was Good.

    I once asked a perfect stranger, What is The Meaning of Life?

    He said, “Do the next best thing.”

    Or maybe it was the next-best thing.

    Since then, I have been trying to do the next next-best thing, trying to trust that I was always intended to, and that this lets me completely off the hook, just like everyone else.

    Oh, except maybe Joan of Arc and Eric Liddle, or maybe not.

    Thank you, Birdsong, very, very, very much, indeed – and Steve and Bob and Sharon and Naoise and MIA, and all of long-suffering humanity, too.

    “God” rest ye merry.



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  13. I doubt it has been put better than that, ever, nor could be.

    I think you’ve just made my… eternity.

    And they say we only get three.

    Wise guys have said that it seems clear the universe or Life does not require our understanding of it all in order to proceed

    But maybe it does require our misunderstandings and limited understandings of it…to proceed?

    When I asked another perfect stranger The Meaning of Life, like most other folks she told me,


    But, not yet getting it, I repeated my question.

    “How d’you mean?” she asked.

    “I mean… we’re obviously here to learn lessons….lessons AND lessons and lessons and lessons and lessons and lessons,” said I, “but do we ever actually get to USE these freaking lessons, do you think – I mean, for ‘God,’ or anything, do you think?”

    She laughed. The best sign, of course.

    “Well, ONE thing is certain: the lessons get harder….until we GET them!”

    I sometimes wonder if it’s maybe actually always the same lesson?

    So, while we are feeling so know-it-all smart, what about the school and mass shootings, and why it’s more often done by males, please – especially as they may represent a tip of an angst iceberg – and one which podcasts and their resulting discussions might help dissolve?

    But the way, I repeatedly find myself admiring the dedication of Naoise on sending out more than 700 surveys/qurstionaires…

    Thank you, eternally.


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    • I think the most important lesson to learn in life is learning to trust your gut, something that psychiatry continually seeks to obliterate through its inappropriate use of diagnoses and drugs; it’s foolish enough to think it has (or will have) the capacity to unravel the complexities of the human psyche.

      Learning the circumstances surrounding school shootings usually make it pretty clear that a dysfunctional family and/or school situation bear much of the blame. But it’s important to keep in mind that some mass shooters were taking psychiatric drugs at the time, some of which are known to cause people to commit acts of violence towards themselves or others. But underlying emotional trauma is usually the reason.

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  14. Many thanks, again, Birdsong!

    Following your very beautiful remark about the “God/Good” within us all, I happened to reread the title given the podcast above…!

    I think a key to getting a handle on any stubborn problem is often to find any pertinent anomaly/ies – don’t you? There may lie a clue as to how to seek that higher level of consciousness from where the elegant ultimate solution/s all come.

    Yes, leaving gun control aside for now, for here, while the still prevailing orthodoxy blames “mental illness,” I agree that prescription drugging may often contribute, but I suspect that psychiatric labeling, itself, may be tremendously harmful: “Give a dog a bad name, and…”

    “Even” to tell someone, especially a kid, that they have or are “ADD/ADHD” strikes me as likely dissuading them from exercising their powers of focus and patience – not to speak of the pernicious potential of suggesting that any drug can restore them towards “normal!”

    Mind you, showing that such silly diagnoses are pulled out of erudite rectums may quickly and efficiently hasten the debunking of the bulk of psychiatric diagnoses – or of all of them, actually, if we return actual brain diseases to neurologists.

    Absent a valid neuro diagnosis, to tell any human being that they have a brain or a mind or a psyche which is “disordered,” and which, therefore, they cannot trust – what could potentially be more dangerous, more damaging, more destructive, more likely to cause or to exacerbate desperation – and especially when it is done where simply loving, listening empathetically and encouraging the person might have helped so very, very much, instead?

    Men who suicide or who mass murder may demonstrate an anger which is not characteristic of equally desperate and suicidal women, in general.

    If I came here as an alien and were asked how to help prevent mass shootings, I think I might suggest humans investigate how and why males may think and act with more violent anger than females – if they do.

    Birdsong, thank you very, very much for staying with this. As in any problematic human situation, there surely HAS to be some win-win-win-win-win-win-WIN solutions here, if only we can remain committed to finding them.

    I sense that a sure step is to cease demonizing any actors in all this, to assume we are indeed all equal and that, ultimately, we do not wish to pursue happiness, but to attain joy, and have all been duped…

    Warmest wishes, and renewed thanks.


    “To choose hope is to step firmly forward into the howling wind, baring one’s chest to the elements, knowing that, in time, the storm will pass.”

    – Desmond Tutu.

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  15. OMG, Girlfriend: GOTTITT: Don’t know WHY I didn’t get it sooner: Make ’em LAUGH!

    OBviously, that is how to prevent school and all other shootings, and all abuse.

    Now, how best to achieve that is the question, of course, but to never, ever trust any therapist or psychiatrist who stops laughing might be a start?

    All other suggestions most welcome, please.

    “Anyone who tries to make a distinction between education and entertainment doesn’t know the first thing about either.” – Marshall McLuhan

    Thanks again, for all the inspiration.


    “When you come to a fork in the road, take it [:]

    If this world were perfect, it wouldn’t be ” Yogi Berra, reportedly.

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    • Tom,
      I think most therapists lack a sense of humor because they take themselves way too seriously. And humor – if used correctly – heals like nothing else.

      Maybe the rage behind school shootings would be less if kids were given a safe outlet, some kind of creative endeavor to express their pent up anger.

      I think what’s interesting is entertaining. And a lot of education is extremely boring, (imho).

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