The ups and painful downs of day to day life

Radio/podcast: How do you cope? by Elis James and John Robins; reviewed by Abbie Jones.

Elis James and John Robins are comedians and friends who, over the last few years, have had a radio show and podcast which have become known for open and honest conversations about mental health. They didn’t set out to create a show where they tackle mental health; rather, they are friends who have funny conversations about the wonderful ups and painful downs of day to day life.

In ‘How Do You Cope?’, Elis and John embrace their unintentional role model status in a new podcast. Interviewing people in the public eye who have been through a variety of challenging situations, the focus is the effect of those situations, and how they have coped. Their style is recognisable to fans of their 5Live show (formally Radio X), and there may be some in-jokes which may initially put off newcomers. However, those are mostly in the introduction, with the main interview not requiring any background knowledge. Their style may not be for everyone, but there is something beautiful about their balance of humour and humility.

In the first episode Elis and John interview Adam Kay, ex-junior doctor and author of This is Going to Hurt. They talk openly about the challenges Adam faced in his medical career, and some since leaving. They discuss a range of coping mechanisms, such as alcohol, social support, isolation, emotional desensitisation, and acknowledge how some of these can become unhealthy and problematic in their own right.

Throughout the episode, I am struck by a sense that while neither Elis or John have any psychological or mental health training, they have a natural aptitude for the skills which we strive for. They listen compassionately and empathetically, whilst having the insight to be aware of themselves and avoid over-identifying with their guest.

Overall, I think that 'How Do You Cope?' is an interesting listen for anyone interested in mental health, coping or just people in general. As a community of psychologists, I think we could learn a lot from their down to earth, humble, and humorous communication style which appears to break down barriers and open up honest conversations about what it is to be human.

Reviewed by Abbie Jones, PhD student at the University of Bath, @abbiejones86

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