Episode 67: A conversation with Rachel Kelly

First off, a huge vote of thanks goes out to my guest this week, Rachel Kelly, who was a model of understanding when I got back in touch after our first recording to say the audio was unworkable (her laptop was distorting her voice and editing couldn’t do much). So, we sat down for the second time, a few more weeks into lockdown, and I’m so happy we did.

Rachel is an author, speaker, campaigner and all-round academic on mental health recovery. She has experienced two major depressive episodes in her life, the first at a time (1990s) when depression was a condition shrouded in societal and internalised stigma; not talked about or understood like it is today.

We were able to have such a natural conversation about Rachel’s life, her history with depression and her vast body of knowledge on the science of depression. She brought us into her 1997 world, when she was working all hours in the newsroom of The Times, chasing deadline after deadline at the constant request of news editors. Rachel shared what happened in her body and mind as she started to fall into insomnia and depression, and what it felt like to be hospitalised; feeling so physically unwell that at times she was screaming in pain and having suicidal thoughts.

We talk about the impact and internalisation of the stigma, and the process of becoming more open after her second depressive break, which lasted several years.

Rachel also shares valuable perspectives on:

Learnings from lockdown: The space to restart the self-care strategies she champions, and the opportunity to go deeper and really practice what we are preaching.

The complex research on the triggers behind mental health breaks, from poor gut health to capitalist culture, people pleasing and loss of self.

Her experience with mood and food, and the three top “happy foods”.

The practice of bibliotherapy and how poetry and writing can support healing.

The inevitability of change in our lives and shifting perspective to turn it into a positive.

Exercises and affirmations to help our minds adapt to uncertainty in life.

The question of whether we should identify with a mental health issue.

Rachel was a delight to speak to and has written so much on these topics, I’d urge you all to go and explore her work in the show notes below. Particularly Black Rainbow, in which she talks about her depressive episodes and healing through poetry, and The Happy Kitchen, which explores the story with good mood foods and the power of nutrition.

Friends, you can listen and share through the links below, from Friday 8am UK.

Listen online through Soundcloud


Apple Podcasts



Show notes

Rachel’s website

Rachel’s books

The Speakers Collective


Rethink Mental Illness

Rumi poetry

Kristin Neff ted talk

The poetry of Gerard Manley Hokpins

The Body Keeps the Score

Simon Armitage on Desert Island Discs

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