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16 September 2020

New podcast explores relationship between societal changes and mental health

The Centre for Society and Mental Health at King’s College London is hosting a new podcast that will explore how changes in society affect our mental health and help develop communication skills in this important area.

New podcast explores relationship between societal changes and mental health

Entitled ‘Our Sick Society’ the podcast series features both academics and experts by experience – who are individuals with first-hand experience of mental ill health as either service users or as care givers, family members or friends of service users. Together they will explore how the current so-called “epidemic” of mental ill health is caused and made worse by societal factors.

We want to highlight something which often gets overlooked - the impact of society on people's mental health. Social factors, environments and changes all affect mental health, and this is often missing from the current conversation about mental illness.

Dr Sally Marlow, Engagement and Impact Fellow, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN), King’s College London

Each month, the podcast will feature voices from marginalised communities who have experienced mental ill health, giving them the opportunity to describe how specific social aspects have impacted their life and experiences.

The first episode features Pearl, Tia-Mariah and Michael – three experts by experience whose mental health has been affected by social restrictions imposed during the Covid-19 outbreak. It also highlights research being conducted by the ESRC funded Centre for Society and Mental Health at King’s College London. Future topics will include navigating complex work, welfare and housing systems in place across the UK; and experiences of refugees seeking mental health support.

Our Sick Society is a way to bring to life - in people's own words - how the reality of day-to-day living affects mental health. We look beyond describing "social problems" to ask, "What can social science research and action do to pursue change?"

Dr Charlotte Woodhead, Lecturer in Society & Mental Health, IoPPN, King's College London

As well as providing a new channel for social sciences to communicate mental health research, and for service users and communities to have a platform to tell their stories, the podcast is also being used to build capacity in research communication. With support from seasoned producers and presenters, two early career researchers and two experts by experience will each develop and lead their own episodes, enabling them to build new skills in communicating their research and ideas with non-academic audiences. Lavinia Black, one of our experts by experience who will be developing a future episode, reflects on participating in this process:

‘This podcast series is an important vehicle for sharing voices of vulnerability, of those sometimes overlooked, and bringing them together with the experience of academics. I'm especially pleased as I feel this is pivotal in truly reaching a wide audience, crossing divides and having a powerful and lasting impact on mental health research.’

Our Sick Society podcast

The learning from this innovative approach will be captured in a co-developed podcast episode and set of materials for social scientists: “How to make a mental health podcast with experts by experience”, which will be released on the Centre website in early 2021.

The podcast is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

To stay up to date with the podcast and related materials, you can subscribe on Soundcloud, or follow @sicksocietypod on Twitter.

For all other enquiries, please email

In this story

Sally  Marlow

Professor of Practice in Public Understanding of Mental Health Research