Podcasts providing a new platform to talk about tough topics

Katharine Thiele wanted to talk about some of the leading issues facing young people today, so she turned to one of the fastest growing online mediums around – podcasting.

Katharine Thiele editing an upcoming episode. Photo: Brooke Fankhauser

The 22-year-old nursing and midwifery student at Monash University hosts the podcast Preceded By Chaos.  

“It is a podcast on topical issues, issues that young people face, it’s a bit of just an ongoing conversation about things that have been in mainstream media and problems in society that I’m passionate about and want to chat about,” Thiele says.  

On average, Australians are spending about 11 hours a week listening to podcasts, which rose from 10 hours in 2018, according to the Edison Infinite Dial Australian report in 2019.  

Thiele says she started the podcast to have conversations about topics young people might not get the chance to discuss in their own homes, such as safe sex. 

“I grew up in a family where there wasn’t a lot of open discussions about things and I had to seek those discussions elsewhere, so I sort of wanted to provide a place where there could be open discussion, open dialogue and people could feel like they relate, or it could help them in some way,” she says.

Taking inspiration from podcasts such as It’s A Lot with Abbie Chatfield, who rose to fame after being cast as the villain on the 2019 season of The Bachelor for speaking openly about sex, Thiele wants to sound genuine when discussing heavier topics such as mental health and gendered violence.  

“I think you need to make podcasts that you’re passionate about … I don’t like it when someone is talking about a topic that they know is in the media at the moment and they’re just doing it because everyone else is doing it,” she says.

Mental health is a huge issue facing young people today with more than 75% of mental health problems occurring before the age of 25, according to Beyond Blue.  

“Just about every young person I know has had some sort of mental health struggle, which is really sad, but I thinks it’s good that our generation can be aware and be understanding,” Thiele says.   

Clinical psychologist at Brisbane Bayside Clinical Psychology, Dr Lisa Scott, says podcasts can be a valuable resource for young people.  

“Podcasts provide easy access to reliable information, provided young people know or are informed as to the quality of the information they are accessing. Scientifically proven information is necessary to ensure mental health is treated in a timely and professional manner,” she says.

Dr Scott says social media has been a doubled-edged sword for young people during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“Rates of suicide due to online bullying that can now pervade every inch of our lives has skyrocketed over the past decade. Although social media has been a lifeline throughout the physical isolation due to COVID restrictions, our neurophysiology is regulated best in the presence of others,” she says.

A study from the Black Dog Institute found higher rates of people seeking help for their mental health in the pandemic who needed to find support in different ways with restrictions on in-person appointments.  

 Dr Scott says giving young adults a wide range of methods to help deal with mental health is a key to providing support. 

“From offering immediate text response systems for those struggling with mental health issues to phone lines, all are important to allow young people the choice on how they feel the most comfortable to communicate their issues,” she says.

“Peer-to-peer support is also vital to ensure young people feel the most comfortable speaking with someone.”  

Thiele hopes her podcast will help reduce some of the stigma surrounding mental health.  

“I think it’ll give people a place where mental health’s not shied away from and they can hear other people talk about their mental health struggles and know that they’re not alone,” she says. 

An ABC podcast survey conducted in 2019 found that podcast listeners wanted audio that teaches, informs and entertains them.  

“I’m aiming for people over the age of 16. I guess anyone can listen to it … it doesn’t really have an age limit, but I’d say it’s relevant to people between the ages of 16 and 24. But I can actually see on (podcasting app) Anchor the age demographic and I’ve got all different ages listening to it, which is really good,” Thiele says.  

Anchor is a podcast editing mobile app where users can record, edit and upload their podcasts directly to listening apps such as Spotify and Apple Podcasts.  

Thiele has uploaded two episodes of her podcast to far, one discussing sex education after seeing the popular Netflix series Bridgerton, and the other talking about gendered violence with her American exchange student friend, Kate.  

“It’s probably better to do it with a guest. You can bounce ideas off each other,” she says.   

“I don’t know what my goal was when I started about how many people I wanted to listen to it, but I’ve had about 100 listens, which is more than I ever thought, which is really good,” Thiele says.  

Podcasts can be started by anyone and don’t require fancy equipment, according to Thiele.  

“Okay, so I do the really professional thing of just using the voice recorder on my phone, and then I just edit it on Anchor and upload it to Spotify through there,” she laughs.  

She says the hardest part is just picking up the microphone to start.  

“Putting yourself out there,” she says. “Once I did it I was like ‘oh no I’m going to delete this I hate this’! And I guess, you know you’re going to have people that are going to have different opinions to you and that’s going to be hard when I come across someone that disagrees with something that I’ve said, but I guess that’s the risk that you take.”  

People aged between 12-25 seeking help for a mental health problem can contact Headspace or call Lifeline on 13 11 14  

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