Just Listen is a seven-part mental health podcast series by Rākau Roroa Tall Tree and NZME journalist, Juliette Sivertsen. The series explores how to support a person in serious and ongoing mental distress.
Six New Zealanders (including some who are also Rākau Roroa Tall Trees) and their support people share their mental health journey and challenges with Juliette, with the final episode featuring an expert panel to discuss kindness, boundaries, mindfulness and self-care.
These candid conversations aim to get people comfortable talking about mental health, to share stories of people living with a mental illness, and to discuss some of the helpful and not-so-helpful things some of us do and say when trying to help a person in distress. Together, we can work to better support people in our communities, and learn to just listen.
Episode one | OCD: It’s not about a fear of dirt
“OCD is like this vicious dragon and when you’re in the depths of it, it’s like you’re in the mouth of that dragon and it’s shaking you like a ragdoll. And when I started working on my health, it was kinda like I just climbed out of the jaws of the dragon.” Francesca Eldridge is a nutritionist in New Plymouth who has lived with obsessive-compulsive disorder. At her worst, she would spend hours each day on her compulsions. Eventually – with support from her ex-husband Glenn – she found the strength to work on her health and lifestyle, which helped lead to her recovery.
Episode two | Bipolar disorder is just a label
“What does it matter? I’m just being me. I’m content with the fact I have highs and I have lows. And when I have highs, some really magical things happen.” Samantha Adams about navigating her life through grief, a bipolar diagnosis, depression, drug abuse and psychosis. Her journey began after watching her father’s health deteriorate due to cancer, and the unresolved grief that followed after his death. Samantha wants to share her story so others don’t feel so alone in their journey, and show that with the right support, a person in serious distress can learn to flourish and be well.
Episode three | What is high-functioning depression?
Philip McDonald couldn’t understand why he wanted to spend his weekends in bed hidden under a duvet with the curtains drawn, and why social events became harder and harder to attend. “There’s not enough awareness yet, certainly in my generation… of what depression is, how it impacts people and how debilitating it can be… even people living at a low-level situation where they just feel less capable every day.” Philip says he wants other men to be able to open up rather than pretend that everything is okay when it’s not.
Episode four | The difference between feeling anxious and anxiety
“It’s not your problem. You cannot fix it. You can tell me until your heart’s content that I’m going to be okay, but it’s a journey I have to go on.” Mathew Nuttal believes he was always an anxious child, but it intensified as he got older. He got used to wearing a mask around friends, who didn’t understand just how vicious his inner critic was, and the physical reactions he had to those emotions. Nowadays he has a full toolkit to help him manage his distress. He says it’s important for people in supporting roles to not try and ‘fix’ another person’s distress.
Episode five | Navigating relationships when one person has PTSD
Tamara Waugh wants everyone to know that recovery from childhood trauma is possible. As a sexual abuse survivor, she’s spent years navigating through life with post-traumatic stress disorder. She credits meditation and gratitude practices for helping her life back on track, as well as a good support network. One of her friends is psychologist and motivational speaker Dr Paul Wood, who says well-meaning ‘advice’ from friends and family isn’t always helpful for a person living with mental distress.
Episode six | When grief leads to depression
“I have to own my truth, know my truth, accept my truth and live my truth.” You might recognise her voice, but you might not know that Newstalk ZB newsreader Niva Retimanu has spent years learning to live with depression, which manifested after losing both of her parents at an early age and covering up her grief. Having lost a couple of close friends to depression, Niva wants to get everyone comfortable talking about their mental health and is starting with herself.
Episode seven | What does self-care really mean?
In this final episode, host Juliette Sivertsen speaks with psychologist Anna Friis and psychiatrist Dr Tony Fernando. Both Anna and Tony take a compassionate approach towards mental health and medicine. They discuss what self-care is really all about, what it means to be kind to yourself, whether mindfulness is all it’s cracked up to be, and how to be a compassionate friend to someone going through a tough time. They also challenge stereotypes about mental health and where the gaps are in New Zealand’s mental health system.
Funded by the Mental Health Foundation of NZ, Like Minds Like Mine, supported by NZME.