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.

After Christchurch: Why rituals are important - The Psychology Report

Mar 22, 2019

Today marks one week since the tragic events of 15 March 2019. As we remember those who were killed and injured, those whose lives were changed forever on that day, I thought I would post a few responses to things that people have been asking me about, either on email, in person or through media requests.   What happens if you’ve been affected by the earthquakes and now this? For many people, who have been affected by the earthquakes, and have now been involved in this event in some shape or form, they may experience some feelings and thoughts that might be troubling for them. In the outer layer of people affected, let’s say of people who struggled through but survived the impacts of the earthquakes and who now find themselves living in a city full of sirens, emergency … Read More

After Christchurch: What to do when our protective bubble has burst and why - The Psychology Report

Mar 20, 2019

We have a window of time in which we can make profound changes in New Zealand so that nothing like the Christchurch attacks on 15 March 2019 can happen again. But there is a high risk that this window is going to close soon so we need to move quickly. And it will take profound, coherent,  and courageous leadership to do so. Let me explain why. When we go about our everyday lives we are, for most of the time, able to stay on a pretty even keel. This stability in our mental state, this freedom from anxiety about what might happen next, or what might be around the next corner in life, this stable sense of continuity and order helps us to give meaning to our lives that the world is a safe and stable place: that it … Read More

After Christchurch: what you might be feeling and why - The Psychology Report

Mar 16, 2019

Today, I wanted to talk about how some reactions we might be feeling in the next few days as a result of the Christchurch terror attack can feel quite overwhelming and complicated. I wanted to talk about how this can be really uncomfortable, but quite common after large-scale events like this. I’ve recorded this in this video below, but you can read on too. Let me start with outlining some of the reactions people might be experiencing now or in the near future. If you’re not experiencing these, don’t worry – I’m just describing the sorts of things that the research says that people have reported. In general, the short-term reactions include experiences like shock, disbelief, numbness, disorientation and uncertainty about what the future will bring. Struggling with identity In particular, what I am noticing is an emerging struggle … Read More

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