Podcasting as a Tool For Improved Mental Health

Michael Howie

 

Mental health issues are hard to talk about, and, in my experience, hard to hear about. But being honest with myself and my audience about my generalized anxiety disorder, and the feelings of compassion fatigue I confront challenges me to be a better podcaster, and a healthier person.

My mental health story isn’t that remarkable: I had no trauma or “incidents” as a child, but was always considered nervous, or a worrier. By the time I was hitting my adult years, it manifested into more significant physical issues, as well as affecting my ability to perform at school, work, and maintain relationships. Overtime, I got a variety of treatments, but it wasn’t without personal cost: friendships, my first marriage, opportunities, and a significant amount of self-esteem were all lost along the way.
Today, I’m much healthier. I use a combination of medication and therapies, as well as making good choices for myself. A part of that is talking about myself and my mental health through my podcast. Though my show isn’t about mental health, it does come up in two ways: my personal experiences with anxiety and how it impacts my views of whatever subject we may be covering, and compassion fatigue.
Also known as burnout, compassion fatigue is a common threat to animal advocates, healthcare workers, or anyone else who works in an industry that results in a great deal of emotional stress. I am extremely proud that in four full seasons of the show, I’ve covered compassion fatigue five times (not including a few webinars). And while I want to use the cliché that “if only one person is helped, I’ll feel better,” I can honestly say that I feel better because I feel better.

Talking about mental health – whether it’s my own struggle, or the daily grinds of compassion fatigue, or just regular stresses – makes me feel better. I feel good about myself, and my confidence and self-esteem grow when I listen to the conversations I’ve had about it on the show.

That said, it is a wonderful feeling when a listener says they’ve reached out for professional help, or are improving in their own mental health struggles after hearing me talk about my own.

Podcasting itself is also an avenue to explore emotional or difficult ideas in a safe manner – I can reach out and talk to ethics professors and work through thoughts or concerns that have been affecting me negatively; I can get tips on how wildlife rehabilitators manage the stresses in their day-to-day lives; I can even talk to political leaders about finding hope in what often feel like hopeless situations.

I have found solace and support in podcasting, as well as growing my self-esteem and feelings of self-worth, in a medium that I’m able to share with likeminded individuals. Podcasting can’t replace therapy, or medication, or self-care. But it can be a tool to improve mental health, and that’s pretty amazing.