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Holy Smoke Podcast: Mental health, useless clergy – and a young professor’s nightmare

15 November 2019

6:29 PM

15 November 2019

6:29 PM

We’re all sick of celebrities making a meal of their mental health problems – but that doesn’t mean that we aren’t facing a potential crisis. The unique strains of living in the technology-driven 21st century are taking their toll on people who, in an earlier era, would have been psychologically robust. Many of us are affected by anxiety, depression, addiction and eating disorders; all sorts of compulsive behaviour are flourishing as never before.

And the mainstream churches have got nothing useful to say about it. Many bishops seem content to blame it on Brexit.


My guest on Holy Smoke this week is Prof Stephen Bullivant, who is Britain’s foremost expert on patterns of religious belief. He knows all about mental health, too. Three years ago, in his early 30s, he was suddenly hit by clinical depression – and by suddenly I mean during the course of a few minutes, while driving home from work.

He talks very frankly – ‘bravely’, as they say of celebrities – about the catatonic misery that threatened to destroy his career and his young family. But we touch on so much else: the simultaneous decline of the parish and the village pub; Mormon dating habits; the menace of ‘Mental Health Awareness Days’ in primary schools; and the 1970s sitcom Mork and Mindy – whose star, Robin Williams, killed himself.

It’s the most wide-ranging discussion we’ve ever had on Holy Smoke. Don’t miss it.


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