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Podfather Reviews: Mental illness on the mic

Imagine if one out of every five people in the U.S. was born without opposable thumbs. These people are friends, family and coworkers that one sees on an everyday basis, struggling to pick up plates dropped on the floor, open doors or even shake other people’s hands. 

It’d be crazy if this was actually real. But one-fifth of the U.S. does struggle with mental illness, according to statistics from the National Alliance on Mental Health. Thankfully though whether it’s anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, panic disorder or a multitude of other conditions, there are efforts being made to talk about mental illness.

Some people point to TV shows, like Bojack Horseman or Shameless, for their portrayals of mental illness in making awareness of it more mainstream, but podcasts talk about it too. And for the hosts of some of these podcasts, talking about mental illness can be even a bit cathartic for them. 

“The Hilarious World of Depression”

Sadness can be funny, right? That’s what John Moe thinks in this incredibly frank yet charming podcast about how in the darkness of depression, some of the funniest thoughts can come about. 

Moe interviews a wide variety of people ranging from radio celebrities like Peter Sagal to musicians like Jeff Tweedy from the band Wilco about their own struggles with depression, and the conversations always have a deep, reverent quality about them.

In one episode, musician Rhett Miller — who also wrote the podcast’s acoustic intro music — revealed details about his adolescent suicide attempt. Even as dark as that time was for Miller, he and Moe still shared a laugh about how Miller sang “Blasphemous Rumors” by Depeche Mode — a song both of them agreed was terrible — when Miller woke up in the hospital room alive. 

In any case, this podcast provides an authentic take on mental illness that is compelling to listen to. Give it a listen. 

Rating: 5 out of 5 earbuds

“The Mental Illness Happy Hour”

Paul Gilmartin tells listeners immediately what to expect: “This show is by no means a substitute for professional mental counseling. ... But instead, think of it as a waiting room that doesn’t suck.”

And this podcast definitely doesn’t suck. Each episode starts out with Gilmartin reading off listener-submitted surveys, one of them being “Struggle in a Sentence,” in which listeners simply describe their mental health struggles in a sentence, making for hilarious results. 

Gilmartin is very honest with his listeners and guest interviewees as he struggles with his own habitual negative thinking, and it honestly sounds therapeutic for Gilmartin to be able to talk about his “shame spirals” of thinking that he gets trapped into.  

First and foremost, his show is honest. It’s how Gilmartin builds a bond with his listeners, and he does this well. My only critique of the show is that each episode is pretty long (most are almost 90 minutes), so it may take multiple listening sessions to get through one episode.

Rating: 4 out of 5 earbuds

“The Dark Place”

This podcast’s goal is to shine thoughtful and relatable discussion into “the dark place” of mental illness, and this interview-driven show has some very interesting elements.

The guests that host Joel Kutz talks with on the podcast have backgrounds that are intriguing. One interviewee is one of 36 people to have survived a suicide attempt off the Golden Gate Bridge, for example. 

Yet this show lacks precise editing and production. There are many times one can become lost or disinterested in an episode because of the side-tangents of conversation Kutz and his guest may get into. 

Kutz isn’t a bad interviewer, but could use a sharper ear to know when to cut out unnecessary parts of the conversation. 

Rating: 3 out of 5 earbuds

Liam Niemeyer is a senior studying journalism at Ohio University’s Honors Tutorial College. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. New year, new pods? Let Liam know by tweeting him @liamniemeyer.

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