Niall Breslin’s Where Is My Mind? has changed my mind about wellness podcasts

Podcast review: Bressie chooses his guests carefully, and often their insight is enough to make you question accepted thinking

I’ve long been a supersceptic about the self-help industrial complex, and don’t get me started on “wellness”. (Team “health” over here.) There are so many bestsellers in those murky-seeming genres that prey on vulnerable people, bleeding them of their livelihoods in search of something that often doesn’t exist and has no basis in any scientific study. At their most benign, the books lining the self-help shelves seem to state the obvious repeatedly, and with padding, or state nothing at all of substance.

So, yes, I have avoided the genre for some time, rolling my eyes at the mere sniff of an inner child or an affirmation. And yet. I find myself with Where Is My Mind?, the long-running podcast from the former Leinster rugby player, Blizzards frontman and, nowadays, mental-health advocate, Niall Breslin, absorbing things I wish I’d paid attention to a long time ago.

Bressie’s guests over the course of more than 200 episodes have included philosophers, psychotherapists, mental-health experts, rock stars, writers – an extraordinary range of people, on subjects including the state of child and adolescent mental-health services in Ireland, unhealthy relationships with alcohol, what masculinity means, loneliness, despair, and all manner of things head and heart related. Breslin finds a point of connection with his guests – these are not bracing, confrontational one-on-ones – but his guests are chosen for a reason, and often their insight is enough to make you question accepted thinking.

One of my favourites is also one of the most recent, with the family psychotherapist Richard Hogan, who is also clinical director of the Therapy Institute, in a discussion that ranges from the deeply personal through policy failures and to the current obsession with feeling good. “Most of us are only okay,” he says, and it’s somehow surprising. He’s right, we’re only okay. Who knew that was enough?


Breslin is sincere about his own mental-health struggles, and he doesn’t bombard the listener with the buzzwords and meaningless platitudes that fail to get at the truth about feelings and our modern world. In fact, he dedicates an entire recent episode to the weaponisation of therapy speak, and it’s delightful listening.

These days Bressie’s podcast is part of the Lemonada network, where he nestles alongside podcasting behemoths that include the actor Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s Wiser Than Me, the former US presidential candidate Julián Castro’s Our America and, from October, the comedian Sarah Silverman, with her eponymous show. Not too shabby for a lad from Mullingar.

There’s some interesting audio texture along the way: Breslin unsurprisingly brings music in at regular intervals, and Mammy Breslin has been known to lend her voice to the proceedings. It’s all artfully done, and impeccably produced, as you’d expect from Breslin, who’s not a man to do things by halves. But this is not just a feelgood 50 minutes or so. I think it’s fair to assume that Breslin is hoping to lighten listeners’ psychic burden in some way with Where Is My Mind? On occasion, though, his podcast had the opposite effect on me: the host’s tendency to chronicle the many ways we might be distracted or despairing or hopeless can be, well, kind of a bummer.

Other than that, Breslin’s on to something. When it comes to mental health we still have a lot to learn, even those like me who thought they knew enough already. Breslin includes guided meditations for listeners to his podcast too, by the way, and though I haven’t managed to make my way through one in its entirety, that may be in part because I’m in particular need of the pause it gives. Sadly, you can’t listen to a guided meditation at double speed.

Fiona McCann

Fiona McCann, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer, journalist and cohost of the We Can’t Print This podcast