This week we interview journalist and author Johann Hari. Johann is one of our foremost social science thinkers and writers. In addition to writing regularly for the New York Times and Independent newspapers, he has written extensively on social science and human rights issues. His 2015 book Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, challenges what we believe about addiction, and his TED talk on our response to addiction has been viewed over 20 million times.
Johann was twice named ‘National Newspaper Journalist of the Year’ by Amnesty International. And he has been named ‘Cultural Commentator of the Year’ and ‘Environmental Commentator of the Year’ at the Comment Awards.
In this interview, we talk about Johann’s latest book, Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression and the Unexpected Solutions, which has been called a ‘game changer’ and received plaudits for its explanation of the social and cultural issues leading to depression and anxiety.
In the episode we discuss:
- How Johann became interested in journalism and began writing about social justice and human rights issues.
- What led to wanting to write a book that was partly based on his own experiences with depression and anxiety, but also that provided the evidence for social and cultural issues that may underlie the dramatic increase in the number of people seeking support for emotional distress.
- The facts behind the chemical imbalance theory of mental illness.
- The role of the bio-psycho-social model of mental distress and why we may have focussed predominantly on biological interventions.
- Social prescribing as a means to enable connection between people who struggle with depression and anxiety.
- The Hamilton Depression scale and how it shows us that the effect of antidepressant drugs is small when compared to the improvements that can be achieved without drug therapy.
- How Johann would like to widen the definition of what may be considered an ‘antidepressant’.
- How disempowerment often lies at the heart of poor health.
- How stigma relates to our perceptions of an individual who is labelled mentally ill and how it changes if we think someone has a biological problem.
- Johann’s experiences in the Berlin district of Kotti.
- That people can hear audio of the many of the interviews held for the book at https://thelostconnections.com
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