Sarb Johal

Sarb Johal is a clinical and health psychologist with too many interests for the time he has available. He has looked at cloning as a solution but is yet to find a worthy collaborator. One of his roles is as Associate Professor in Disaster Mental Health in the School of Psychology, Massey University. Other hats include; host and producer of the Who cares? What’s the point? podcast, and regular contributor as a parenting commentator on Radio New Zealand’s Nine to Noon.

Mental health in public life: Is the experience of politicians and how we make policy intertwined? - The Psychology Report

Sep 03, 2018

Many societies are experiencing significant increases in those reporting mental health difficulties and illnesses, but face systemic obstacles in helping their communities’ to deal with these problems. The WHO report on Mental health: New Understandings, New Hope identified mental health as possibly posing the most difficult and acute health care challenge of the twenty-first century. The report goes on to outline two major obstacles in delivering effective prevention and treatment: (1) a prevalent and negative social stigma around mental health in many countries (and New Zealand is no exception to this), and (2) under-funding and under-ambition in relation to mental health policies. It has been argued by some (e.g. Finder, Weinberg and Geddes, 2016) that these two obstacles may be inter-related because of the existence of a dominant and systemic political culture that makes it very difficult for politicians to … Read More

What is the nocebo effect and why is it important? And what is a systematic review? - The Psychology Report

Aug 27, 2018

In this Psychology Report, I talk with Rebecca Webster  who is based at King’s College in the University of London, UK.  In this conversation, we focus on Rebecca’s work on a systematic review of the ‘nocebo effect’ – what it is and how it might work.  R Webster: Yeah, so we all know what the placebo effect is, it’s the kind of positive outcomes or a healthy improvement after receiving a sham exposure or a sham medicine. Whereas they don’t tend to know about the more kind of sinister side of the placebo effect, which is known as the nocebo. And it’s just essentially the opposite, so it’s where we tend to get obnoxious or an unpleasant symptoms in response to a sham exposure or a sham medicine. I’m kind of interested in how these nocebo effects can actually … Read More

Is human language underpinned by gestures? - The Psychology Report

Jul 16, 2018

  In this Psychology Report, I am interviewing renowned psychologist Emeritus Professor Michael Corballis. He has recently won the Rutherford Medal from the Royal Society of New Zealand for his work on asymmetry of the brain, but also his work on language, and that’s what I’m focusing on today in our interview. One view of language is that it emerged as a single big bang event in one of our ancestors and from that point on the linguistic capability and ability for the human species somehow exploded from that point. Another idea, of which Michael is a keen supporter of, is that somehow gesture and our capacity to position ourselves and move in spacial habitats underpins language, but also this idea of mental time travel. M Corballis: Well, I guess it began … Read More

What are the possible psychological effects of being stuck in that cave? - The Psychology Report

Jul 06, 2018

I was asked by the Science Media Centre for NZ to provide some commentary of the possible psychological and physiological consequences of being stuck in a cave (for an extended period of time). With reference to the situation in Thailand, this is clearly a rapidly evolving situation and decisions are being taken on the ground, so note that this was written on Friday afternoon, NZ time. We know that the 12 boys, aged 11 to 16 and their coach have been underground now for a considerable amount of time, but they are in contact with rescue parties, and are being cared for as much as possible given the difficult circumstances that they and the rescue teams find themselves in. We also know that rescue teams are working around the clock trying to … Read More

Is there a link between dehydration and our experience of pain? - The Psychology Report

Jul 02, 2018

 In this report, I talk with Dr Toby Mundel, senior lecturer in sport and exercise science at Massey University in New Zealand. Toby and his colleagues have been looking at the link between levels of hydration and how it affects pain perception. And this is important because chronic pain is a huge health issue with around about one in five, one in six people suffering from some form of chronic pain. This has big implications for loss of productivity and the medical costs associated with that. So, have a read or listen to the conversation between myself and Toby about some of the research that he and the team that he’s been involved with have been doing, looking at the relationship between levels of hydration and our … Read More

How does photography change our experience of life? - The Psychology Report

Jun 04, 2018

 In this episode I talk with Assistant Professor Alixandra Barasch, based in the Stern Business School, New York University, USA about taking photographs.  For many of you listening to this podcast, taking photos of things and people in our lives has become much more common. Understanding how the act of taking photos may get in the way of, or alternatively, increase our pleasure in these activities seems like an important topic for research. Implicitly, we may hear the message that we should stop taking so many photos and just be in the moment and enjoy our experiences without trying to record everything. Sometimes, we actually hear this from people who say it out loud. But is this true? Does photography – especially using our smartphones – get in the … Read More

Narrative phototherapy in disaster? - Guest Work

Apr 19, 2018

As my photography practice grows and evolves, I find myself thinking about how my training and practice as a psychologist and my interest in disaster mental health overlaps with my photography. I have been thinking about the role of photography as archival memory, but also as a process for recognising, documenting, representing, showing and healing. And as I’ve been thinking about this, I have been thinking about loss, grief, healing and the role of narrative in all this. I was once lucky enough (back in 2005) to attend a training with Michael White at the Dulwich Centre in Australia, centred on trauma and narrative therapy. Narrative therapy is linked to the idea that we are defined by the stories we tell or believe about ourselves, or sometimes through the stories others may tell about us. Narrative therapy is sometimes known … Read More

Key elements for a reformed mental health system in Aotearoa - The Psychology Report

Dec 11, 2017

This is the text from the speech I gave to the Fabian Society in Auckland on the evening of 6 December, 2017. I have made the speech text available for viewing here via Google Docs, but have also reproduced it below with the slides I also presented that evening. I believe that the organisers made an audio recording, and that will also be made available in due course. There are ideas in development, and I am happy to take feedback to develop these ideas further. [Ed: Sarb Johal stood as a Labour Party list candidate in the 2017 General Election].  Broaden and build – Key elements for a Reformed Mental Health System in Aotearoa Speech to the Fabian Society – 6 December, 2017 Auckland, New Zealand Sarb Johal … Read More

What do we know about how young women think about food at school? - The Psychology Report

Nov 02, 2017

In this episode of the Psychology Report, I talk to Dr. Eva Neely, a lecturer at the School of Public Health at Massey University in Wellington, New Zealand. She has done some groundbreaking research on the social health meanings of food for youth in schools – which is a step away from the usual health-focused approach used when trying to influence outcomes for young people. Join us in our conversation as Eva explains why we should care about her research and who should pay attention to it. You can listen to the original podcast here, as well as reading our conversation below.     Sarb Johal: Tell me a little bit about the backstory for this paper – what got you interested in this topic to start off with? Eva Neely: When I was doing undergraduate and honest studies … Read More

Five ideas for reforming mental health care in New Zealand - The Psychology Report

Oct 30, 2017

The first article in this short series looked at the scale and scope of the problem of increasing mental health related presentations in New Zealand. In that first article, I argued that ‘Capitalism with a Human Face’ can take its place in altering the settings of the economy in favour of the experience of those who live and work in it, in balance with the goods and services that are produced, rather than being subservient to those. Centred on the ideas of social support, this second article focuses more on the principles which we can draw upon to help address this problem, the practical implications of these principles, and how these contribute towards a solid platform for reform. 1. Relationships and Connectedness Drawing from the literature on what works best in times of crisis, I believe that the first principle to … Read More