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Our Sick Society

Our Sick Society is a podcast series where researchers from King’s College London and people with lived experience explore together how social factors contribute to mental health problems. The podcast encourages listeners to think and question society’s role in mental health - what are the systems and the structures which mean that some people are more likely to become mentally unwell than others? And crucially, what steps should society take, from national government policies, to local grassroots community organising? How can we cure our sick society?

Each episode, we hear from individuals in marginalised communities who have experienced mental ill health, giving them the opportunity to describe how specific social aspects have impacted their life and experiences. Topics include the impact of Covid-19 control measures on mental health; navigating complex work, welfare and housing systems in place across the UK; and experiences of refugees seeking mental health support.

The project has been funded by King’s College London’s ESRC Impact Acceleration Account


One of the objectives of the podcast project was to share learning with social science researchers across King's. Following our first season, the team have produced a podcasting toolkit, consisting of three guides for researchers who are interested in podcasting.

Download the toolkit

Click the links below to download our guides.

Listen now

You can listen to our podcast on Soundcloud via the player below. 


Download latest transcript

Click the link below to download the transcript for our latest episode:

Episode Information

Summer 2020 has been an extraordinary time, with life as we knew it being turned upside down by Covid-19. For many of us, Covid-19 has become a lens through which the impact huge social changes can have on mental health has been magnified, particularly for people in certain communities. In this episode, we speak to individuals who have been directly affected by Covid-19, either through contracting the virus itself or by being forced to self-isolate without access to mental health services and support. We also hear from researchers who are trying to better understand the impact Covid-19 is having on marginalised communities, and solutions that emerge from their important work. Thank you to our guests for contributing to this episode: Pearl; Tia-Mariah; Michael Afram; Charlotte Gayer-Anderson; Professor Alison Park, ESRC; Professor Craig Morgan, Centre for Society and Mental Health; Professor Stephani Hatch, Centre for Society and Mental Health. Episode 1 was hosted by Dr Sally Marlow, King’s College London.

CSMH Covid-19 and mental health research

The second episode of Our Sick Society podcast was produced in collaboration with Black Thrive. In this episode, members of Black Thrive and researchers at the IoPPN and the Centre for Society and Mental Health talk about how Britain’s long history of systemic and institutional racism continues to affect how all of us think and live today; ways that COVID has highlighted how racism impacts racial inequalities in health; and the importance of documenting experiences both within and across Black communities. We also discuss relevant research and evidence from South East London and Black Thrives’ work on employment and long-term health conditions. Finally, we consider how research can perpetuate racial inequalities, and what panel members think needs to happen to prevent this. Thank you to our guests for contributing to this episode: Lela Kogbara, Celestin Okoroji, Catherine Crawford and Yasmin Ibison from Black Thrive; and Sarah Dorrington from the IoPPN, King’s College London. Episode 1 was hosted by Charlotte Woodhead, CSMH King’s College London. Production support provided by Verity Buckley. The producer was Buddy Peace. Our Sick Society is a King’s College London initiative and was funded by King’s College London’s ESRC Impact Acceleration Account.

Collaborative podcasting for Mental Health, Society & Medicine. There is a reason many podcasts are so successful. For those making podcasts it's cheap, easy and an immediate way to capture a thought, an idea, a discussion. For those who listen, podcasts offer access to those thoughts and ideas in a way that is intimate and personal, delivered in manageable chunks of time which fit in with busy lifestyles. Alongside this success has come a proliferation of podcasts on every conceivable topic, using a wide variety of formats, and nowhere is this more evident than in the area of mental health. However, not all podcasts are engaging and effective. In this episode, launched as part of the ESRC Festival for Social Sciences, we use a podcast to explore podcasting itself, asking an interdisciplinary panel how the medium lends itself to exploring matters of mental health, society and medicine. The podcast will be hosted on King's College London's Our Sick Society platform, and take the shape of a panel discussion, lasting around 45 minutes. It will be chaired by Sally Marlow, Engagement and Impact Fellow at King's, and BBC radio broadcaster specializing in mental health. Panel members will include academics at early, mid and senior career levels who are already podcasting in this space, from podcasts such as Plugged In about digital mental health, and the Beyond the Hype podcast, which explores young people's experiences of mental health and health services. From the Our Sick Society collaboration, professional podcast producer Buddy Peace, Expert by Experience Lavinia Black, and Impact Projects Manager Verity Buckley will take part. We'll explore the components of a successful podcast, as well as how to make sure podcasts are impactful and reach the audiences they are intended for. We will cover the challenges of producing podcasts which cover complex issues and seek to present evidence to a lay audience.

In this episode, our host Lavinia Black speaks to Geraldine about the challenges of recovery during lockdown. Geraldine has been in recovery for 14 years and has used the skills and networks she developed through Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) to get through the pandemic. With face-to-face meetings on hold across the UK, the two reflect on the important role that AA played in their journey to recovery, and how others are learning to adapt in the lead up to Christmas. Episode 4 was hosted by Lavinia Black, Expert by Experience and co-host of Our Sick Society.

If you have been affected by any content in this episode, please make an appointment with your GP, who should be able to refer you to support. You can also click here to see a list of organisations who can provide help.

What is it about music that can tap so powerfully into our mental state? Dr Sally Marlow speaks to a samba band, an orchestra and a South East London band about how music has influenced the mental health of communities and musicians across the UK. Featured in this episode are: Jack Drum Arts, who create inclusive arts projects, activities and events for all ages and abilities - inspiring lives, improving mental health and promoting community cohesion; the City of London Sinfonia (CLS) who create meaningful, shared music experiences between its musicians and audiences, including individuals in wellbeing and healthcare settings and concert audiences in open-plan venues; and The Soothsayers, a London-based afrobeat and reggae-influenced band, who discuss the important role that music plans in their lives and the success of their creative music project The Youthsayers.

Click here for more information about the musicians featured in this episode.

As Covid-19 social restrictions begin to ease, a return to face-to-face teaching is being prioritised by the government. With a spotlight focused on the well-being of our children, what about the teachers and their mental health? In this episode, Dr Gemma Knowles explores how teachers and non-teaching school staff have been impacted by the pandemic, whether their mental health has been affected, and what they think needs to happen to improve support as children return to school. We hear from Caroline, a teacher at a girls’ school in South East London; Gemma Watson, Founding CEO of The T.H.I.N.K. BIG Project and pastoral support lead for schools in London; Sarah Houghton, Head of Learning – Schools for Place2Be; Dr Lisa E. Kim, a researcher based at the University of York who is exploring teachers experiences of Covid-19; and school and college students, Adna, Niiokani, Thai-sha and Anna.

Click here for more information about the projects featured in this episode.

In this episode we are asking, what is society’s role in refugee and asylum-seeker mental health in the UK? What are the systems and the structures which affect their mental health, and their access to support? And importantly, how can we shift the narrative - to change the way we view and support refugees and asylum-seekers? We’ll be hearing from Abigail Oyedele, Zara Asif and Hanna Kienzler who are also from the Centre for Society & Mental Health, and from Vidhi Bassi and Catriona Scott who work with LGBTQ+ refugees and asylum-seekers at Metro Charity. For more information about mental health during the asylum process, you can watch Changing Policy and Practice to Promote Sanctuary Seeker Mental Health, a short video by Sohail, on the CSMH YouTube channel:

Click here for more information about the research and organisations featured in this episode.

In this special episode of Our Sick Society, three young participants of the REACH project are taking over! Join Adna, Karima and Thai-sha as they explore the impacts of social class and poverty on the mental health of young people. They meet with Professor Diane Reay and Dr Sophie Wickham to discuss recent research, and reflect on ways that social media has affected young people’s wellbeing, as well as changes they would like to see in the future.

Click here for more information about research discussed in this episode

In this episode of Our Sick Society, we explore the intersection of digital exclusion and mental health through the eyes of activists, artists with lived experience, medical anthropologists, and computer scientists. Dörte Bemme (@DBemme) and River Ujhadbor (@River_Chaoss) guide us through 12 different perspectives that trace the edge of digital exclusion through policy, intervention, digital care, and our everyday lives and emotions. Activist Kate Scodellaro talks about how digital exclusion affects people with disabilities and amplifies other inequalities in the UK. Theatre artists River Ujhadbor, Chill Jill, Amala Joy, Oriana, and Kim Marsh bring to life what digital exclusion feels and sounds like in powerful soundscapes and spoken word poetry. The editors of the blog series "Tracking Digital Psy" (@somatosphere), Natassia Brenman (@NFBrenman) and Beth Semel (@bethmsemel), discuss with four scholars how digital exclusion is encoded in mental health service provision, in algorithms and apps. Anthropologist Rebecca Lester (@psychanthro) reflects on exclusions emerging from digital mental health care in the US. Psychologist Manuel Capella (@capellamanu) talks about how telepsychiatry in Ecuador is a neoliberal technology offered by a government unwilling to engage social and structural issues Artist and computer scientist Jonathan Zong (@ohnobackspace) reflects on the digital binary as exclusive by design, and on how digital technologies can mean both care and control. Anthropologists Livia Garafolo (@livgar_) and Alexa Hagerty (@anthroptimist), advocate for designing digital technologies together with communities, and with their notions of digital inclusion in mind. We are grateful for the support from the Theatre Company Clean Break, ESRC UKRI Impact Fund, and the Impact Fund from the Department for Global Health and Social Medicine at King’s College London.

Click here for more information about research discussed in this episode

Adna, Karima, and Thai-sha are back! Join them in this special limited series produced by the Resilience, Ethnicity, and AdolesCent mental Health (REACH) project’s Young Person’s Community Champions (YPCC). Episode 10 covers boys mental health, and the impact of stigma and perceptions of masculinity. Episode 11 take a look at social media, and the experiences of adolescents during lockdown. Episode 12 explores the role of culture on mental health and help-seeking in Black communities.

Click here for more information about REACH

External podcasts

Beyond the HYPE

Beyond the HYPE

Co-created by the HYPE research team and young people involved in the project.

For All I Care

For All I Care

Prof Stephani Hatch and artist Dolly Sen discuss art and the mental health system.

Mad In America

Mad In America

Co-Director Prof Nikolas Rose discusses psychiatry and the selves we might become.

World: We Got This

World: We Got This

Political journalist Isabel Hardman discusses nature, mental health and well-being.