MHPN Presents’ podcast series ‘Transitions’ is launching Wednesday 26 May 2021. The series, formerly titled ‘Ageing Well’, features co-hosts Dr Monica Moore and Julianne Whyte in conversation with guest experts on the impacts of major life changes and events on mental health and wellbeing.

Transitions is a twelve-episode podcast series which explores mental wellbeing throughout the lifespan from the perspective of practitioners with both clinical expertise in, and lived experiences of major life changes. Initially released as Ageing Well, Transitions takes a broader survey of the individual and shared factors that inform a meaningful life.

Listeners will hear from co-hosts Dr Monica Moore, a General Practitioner, and Julianne Whyte, a social worker, in a reflective and personal discussion on what it’s like to navigate life’s many challenging moments professionally, vicariously, and personally. Listeners will also hear from new voices on what it’s like to support individuals and communities living through significant shifts in identity.

In thinking about the upcoming release of new episodes, Monica and Julianne are optimistic about the suitability of the new series title. As in the case of life itself, their vision for the series has evolved. Finding the right title was a dynamic and rewarding process for all involved; as Julianne notes:

At the beginning, ‘Ageing Well’ seemed right but as we explored the topics we wanted to cover, we realised the title didn’t give us the fluidity and flexibility we needed in order to address other topics… [Transitions] seemed to gel and allow us that flexibility and freedom.

While the series has maintained a deliberately fluid exploration of life transitions across all episodes, Monica agrees that the former title didn’t clearly reflect this. According to Monica, the decision to shift away from the title Ageing Well required careful thinking, but all agreed that there were clear benefits to a title shift. As Monica recounts:

With the term ‘Ageing Well’, people tend to think [the series is solely about] getting old and that’s not what we wanted to talk about. We wanted to talk about how to live a rich and meaningful life.

The new title has also led to broader shifts in the series such as the inclusion of additional voices and the exploration of new topics, with two new episodes focussing on gender identity and community wellbeing in the aftermath of disasters. For Monica, these new elements have significantly strengthened the series’ interdisciplinary approach to knowledge sharing. Both Monica and Julianne are excited to share these episodes and hope that listeners will find it enriching. On the reason behind these new voices, Monica says:

[When] we were beginning to brainstorm for special guests, [I felt that it] would be easier to have a guest [who works] in an area that I have no expertise in, because it would be me drawing out the person… me learning on the spot… and me sharing that learning with people who want to know what it’s like to [go through] that type of transition from someone else’s perspective.

Although Monica and Julianne are long-term contributors to MHPN, prior to Transitions, neither had hosted or presented a podcast. Julianne acknowledges that network meetings, webinar discussions, and podcasts can differ in their respective audiences, but she also believes there is a common thread underpinning all three.  According to Julianne:

What I notice [about MHPN activities] is the focus on collaboration. In network meetings, I’ll be sitting with the group – there could be thirty people in the room: GPs, psychologists, support workers, social workers, mental health social workers. [It’s a] real mix of truly multidisciplinary engagement and I value that immensely. Even on the webinars, it’s the same thing – we’re not talking to one audience, which makes us as participants and presenters very aware that we’re not just talking to our own [discipline].

Monica similarly observes that podcasts can offer practitioners a new and enriching framework to engage in interdisciplinary discussion. While Monica maintains ongoing and extensive involvement in MHPN’s Sutherland Shire network and has featured as a panelist on several MHPN webinars, she admits that Transitions has been a unique opportunity to develop interdisciplinary relationships and interpersonal skills through sustained collaboration with fellow practitioner, friend, and co-host Julianne. For Monica, co-hosting her first podcast alongside Julianne has “been lots of fun” and their dynamic has been full of “rich and fruitful conversation”; with Monica observing that:

Julianne has a very creative, fluid, ‘think-on-the-spot’ approach that allows her to string sentences together without “ums” or “ahs” and it’s such a gift! [I remember thinking] how do we get the best of both worlds? …We had to get to know how to work together [alongside each other’s different conversation styles]. [The MHPN Presents production team] really helped to coach us both in becoming podcast presenters for the first time.

In addition to the more pragmatic aspects of podcast production, the topics themselves presented a challenge. As practitioners hosting a mental health and wellbeing podcast, there were many behind-the-scenes moments spent collectively figuring out best practices when discussing emotionally charged topics such as community mental health in the aftermath of a shared traumatic event. For Julianne and Monica, it was important to maintain de-identification while also allowing room for reflexive learning during the post-production stages. In thinking back to best practices, Monica acknowledges that it’s an ongoing and acquired skill:

It’s a really difficult thing to balance out how much context to give about the work that we do; how privileged we are in that work; and how much we can pass on from what we learn in our work to other people; while also deidentifying what we’re talking about to an extent that it’s protective…. I hope that in sharing our own experiences, listeners connect with us as the not only [practitioners], but also as humans going through our own lives.

While Julianne agrees that podcasting on sensitive topics can be challenging, particularly for practitioners who are bound to duty of care and / or codes of ethics; hosting Transitions has remained a deeply fruitful experience on both a professional and personal level. In Julianne’s view, this chance to incorporate all of a person within conversations on mental health has been most rewarding:

The topics we cover are not only clinical topics but really personal topics. Every episode discusses something that we have had some part of our lives that we can relate to. We pull in our clinical experience and our lived experience at every level. It hasn’t been hard, it has been delightful.

In looking ahead to the series’ new episodes, Julianne hopes that listeners will come away from Transitions with new insights that support them in life, whether they are practitioners or not. Furthermore, Julianne hopes to “hear if someone took away a metaphor or a tip [from the discussion]”that broadens, challenges, or enriches their approach to, and thinking on the difficult moments within life.

For Monica, her main hope is that listeners will engage with the series as they would in an enriching discussion between friends rather than strangers. On the main points she’d like to leave listeners of Transitions with, Monica says:

The first one is the concept of radical acceptance; the fact that life is not what we want it to be, what we hoped it would be, it just is… The acceptance that life just happens.

The second one would be that life is not just about being happy but about growing… If we don’t grow, we get stifled and it’s only through doing hard things that we get confident about doing hard things. So it’s important not to avoid doing hard things in life.

The last one is to be kind. Be kind to yourself, be kind to people you meet, you don’t know what they’ve come from, you don’t know why they’re behaving the way they are, so give them explanations in charity.