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Listen away: Taking refuge in mental health podcasts

Listen away: Taking refuge in mental health podcasts

He was struggling with depression. The feeling of hopelessness and foreboding eroded his soul. He came across a podcast on tackling depression and he was hooked for life. The lack of, and high cost of therapists and almost non-existent protocols on mental health has helped him find direction. There are many Indians like him, taking refuge in the power of mental health podcasts.

Yet, how does one learn the art of acceptance and surrender? What are the tools to address the many “garbage dump of situations” in life? Yes, you might post about the wonderful lives you lead, and the utopia-like existence—though the brass tacks are clear and show otherwise—every seventh Indian faces some form of mental health disorder, and India’s mental health infrastructure is woefully lacking.

The rise of podcasts on mental health, and many urban listeners is addressing this concerning chasm. So when anxiety, debilitating stress, and dark thoughts arise mercurially, and often like a shroud addle the brain, searching for a podcast to fill the void has become a go-to for many, the author included.

Dr Pulkit Sharma, clinical psychologist says, “India alone has 14% of the population battling variations of mental disorders. There is a huge lacuna in mental health services here. The fact that India’s health budget allocates only 1 percent to mental health is cause for grave concern. We have a recipe for a mental health crisis that is playing out with a high prevalence of anxiety, addictions and depression.”

Finding solace, solutions, and a panacea to heal in the face of high costs of therapy, lack of licensed psychologists per 1,000 population, and the stigma attached to seeking treatment has given people a way to heal—mental health podcasts. Thankfully, they are apt, incisive, research and science based to rekindle awareness and coping mechanisms. According to latest research, podcasts are helping individuals recognise their conditions, and either address the milder issues themselves, or seek help.

A research paper concluded that mental health podcasts are a great psychoeducational tool to enhance awareness, and thereby solutions in society. The paper in found that, “Mental health-related podcast listeners’ motivations and experiences are centred around developments in mental health literacy. Participants with the lowest levels of education and mental health literacy reported the most significant benefits from listening to them.”

For Kavitha Ganeshan, a single mother, suffering from bouts of depression, these podcasts have been her “therapy session”. Of course, this is not without caution that Dr Pulkit Sharma and Jungian counsellor and psychologist Chandini Harlalka echo, “Podcasts have a great role to play as there is still a lot of stigma around mental health issues,” and Dr Sharma adds, “A patient suffering from severe OCD recently told me how a podcast helped him realise the seriousness of his OCD, thus he finally sought treatment. Most often, many are reluctant. Yet, podcasts cannot be substituted for treatment, but they open a window of hope to see the light in one’s own darkness.”

Chandini Harlalka, psychologist and counsellor has observed the rise in mental health issues among all ages, and points out, “While podcasts are a great orientation to mental health problems, just understanding a concept (say trauma) intellectually might open the individual to strategies but emotionally, it is not enough. You cannot therapise yourself. Yes, it helps to listen to experts, however the personal interaction is crucial for serious mental issues which a therapist offers. Do seek one,” says Chandini.

The current mental health pandemic shows the absence of protocols, infrastructure and licensed professionals. “A podcast might be the bridge to seeking therapy. Yet, do check on the background and veracity of the therapist, and if the counsellors are in supervision themselves,” adds Chandini.


Talking, listening and imbibing sees urban Indians (mostly), access an encyclopaedia of mental health podcasts, many of which are free, rock solid in experience, background and qualifications. This “listen therapy,” addresses the lack of psychologists, funds, and even initiative to bring one to the door of possibilities. Here are some of today’s top podcasts.

1. The Happiness Lab by Laurie Santos

Yale University Professor Dr Laurie Santos practices and preaches on happiness. Her Happiness Lab podcast and course on Psychology and the Good life were so greatly acclaimed, that she started a free course on Coursera called the Science of Wellbeing. The Chandrika and Ranjan Tandon professor of Psychology and head of Silliman College at Yale University attempts to bring best practices of the mind to live with freedom and acceptance. It has attracted more than 4 million learners, which prompted Dr Santos to start a podcast called the Happiness Lab, which is among the top-3 Apple podcasts, attracting 85+ million downloads since it began
Hi Fives: Helps navigate and understand the origins of emotions, anxiety, trauma. Gives scientific context to right practices.

2. Huberman Lab by Dr Andrew Huberman

Hosted by neuroscientist and professor at University of Stanford, Andrew Huberman, this podcast is often ranked among the top in science, fitness and health. He started the podcast in 2021, during Covid 19 as a tool to give relevant information to improve public health.

Hi-fives: The biology of emotions, brain and why we act the way we do is explained, to help individuals not just get strategies, but know why.

3. Where Should We Begin? by Esther Perel

Belgian born psychotherapist Esther Perel is an “expert” on relationships, emotions and sexuality. The New York Times bestselling author of The State of Affairs and Mating in Captivity, her celebrated TED talks with 20 million views, her podcast backed by her own therapy practice and science, Where Should We Begin? illuminates and goes into places of extreme discomfort, and speaks of real life instances and experiences to elucidate or glean learning, behavioural patterns to decipher and deal with the pain individuals carry. It’s like witnessing a therapy session where each nuance, emotion and feeling gets Perel into her mind mode, to decipher the real meaning of the cacophony of voices.
Hi Fives: This is a therapy in session peek sometimes, often times a visceral look at what underlies each human frailty and emotion, and Perel’s clarity of thought unearths answers.

4. The Tony Robbins Podcast

Tony Robbins – The Official Website of Tony Robbins

Tony Robbins is the author of six international bestsellers, but it his most recent book, LIFE FORCE: How New Breakthroughs in Precision Medicine Can Transform the Quality of Your Life and Those You Love, that delves in its last chapter on emotions, and how to master them.

Not only are his podcast empowering and powerful, with great insights into mental health amongst a slew of new therapies, treatments, practices (which you would be well advised to do your due diligent before adopting), it is his transformational talks that offer a new outlook towards life.

Hi-Fives: His booming and commanding voice, the attention to details, and giving tips, strategies to follow.

5. Lewis Howes, the School of Greatness


When Lewis Howes speaks, his intonations, and tones strike a chord, as it reflects (even in a podcast) his eureka moments be it on mental health, trauma, emotions, motivation and health, which appear to resonate with his own understanding, thereby the listeners. His podcasts are informative, shed light into emotional and body niggles, and are among the top. The School of Greatness podcast has had over 150 million downloads, and 1,000 episodes since its launch in 2013.

Hi-fives: His five greatness questions at the end are quick tips on living freely, and the no nonsense approach to angst and anguish to skim through and take away profound wisdom is apt.

6. Unlocking us by Brene Brown 4P86ZzHf7EOlRG7do9LkKZ
The importance of vulnerability is topmost on the list of emotions Prof Brene Brown speaks about. Research professor at the University of Houston, and visiting professor in management at the University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business, she says on her website ( “I’ve spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy,” and her podcast Unlocking Us is a culmination of years of study, interactions and deep study. What Brown speaks about connects on a very visceral emotional level, about how uncomfortable feelings are often pushed away, or projected otherwise. Hi-fives: Intellectual understanding aside, Brene’s courage to explore unwanted, deeply anguishing and real emotions are a learning in itself.

7. On purpose with Jay Shetty 5EqqB52m2bsr4k1Ii7sStc
London born Jay Shetty’s introverted life transformed after hearing a monk speak. Thus began his journey into the hows, whys and what-ifs of life. To further explore this incredible heaviness of being, he spent time with monks in India, and embarked on a three-year journey as a Hindu monk in India and the UK. Then came the greater awakenings of ancient practices like breath and mindfulness, and philosophies and sciences of the East.

Today, with 50M+ followers and taking life’s inherent push to be of purpose to others, Shetty harnesses the transformative power of digital and audio media with his podcast, On Purpose with Jay Shetty. It has had over 35 million monthly downloads, ranking top most among most platforms. Learning from the best in the business, guests include President Joe Biden, Oprah and Selena Gomez, Michelle Obama, Lewis Hamilton, Kobe Bryant.
Hi-fives: His daily posts and episodes are succinct, heartfelt and often, he intersperses humour to make the less palatable aspects of life bearable. Short, wise and incredibly light, the guests, Jay’s clarity of thought helps guide one.

8. The Mel Robbins Podcast

The author of The High 5 Habit, The 5 Second Rule, and the #1 ranking and Webby award-winning The Mel Robbins Podcast relatability is her personal posts that shows the flaws that each individual endures, with personal instances that endear you to her, and tackling hard topics with experts that echo the same.

9. The Drive by Dr Peter Attia


Podcaster and doctor Peter Attia, MD, ties medicine, science into best practices for enhancing mental health. He believes in Medicine 3.0 with a goal of lengthening lifespan and increasing healthspan. Delving into life, and health, his book on longevity, Outlive, a #1 NYT bestseller has a chapter on emotional health which helps individuals navigate the plethora of emotions that most are slaves of. Dr Attia says in Outlive, “After much reflection I understand how emotional health relates to longevity.”

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