Indigenous women draw on personal experiences in mental health podcast

Julianna Maggrah, left, and Cathy Wheaton-Bird, right, share mental health coping strategies in their new podcast (Submitted Photos)

Two Indigenous woman have started a podcast called Unbroken aiming to have open conversations about mental health.

The name stems from Julianna Maggrah’s documentary titled Broken that focuses on her experiences with mental and physical health. People suffering from depression and anxiety among other mental illnesses, like Maggrah, “tend to feel like they’re broken.”

“This podcast is about making myself and others to feel like they’re not broken, that it’s OK,” Maggrah said.

Maggrah’s co-host, Cathy Wheaton-Bird, saw her documentary and reached out to her about producing a podcast about mental health. Wheaton-Bird said she’s been on her own journey, learning about her own emotional wellness.

“I have a much better understanding of how I was being affected by past trauma and negative experiences,” Wheaton-Bird said.

During her healing journey, Wheaton-Bird said she’s learned so much about emotional wellness and wanted to share those learnings with others. After seeing Maggrah’s documentary, she realized Maggrah was taking that similar path of sharing.

“She was really providing a really in-depth look at what it was like for her, her experience and then in her video she also talked about how she was on this journey of discovering what helped her feel better,” Wheaton-Bird explained.

Armed with their own personal experiences with mental health, the two women talk about their healing methods and coping strategies in the podcast.

For Wheaton-Bird, she shared how she uses physical activity to be boost her mood. She had a severe injury that prevented her from being physically active and noticed it had a significant impact on her mood.

“I talked about how i figured out a way to be active and that it had an immediate impact on my mood. I actually felt better, I felt motivated I wasn’t isolating myself as much,” Wheaton-Bird said.

“I just wanted to share that technique and also say that it does have an immediate impact on your mood so it’s a really good way to help yourself,” she added.

Wheaton-Bird has dealt with many difficult times in her life including childhood bullying, violence, her own and others addictions, living in poverty and not having a home.

Wheaton-Bird, a La Ronge resident, explained that events like these pile and build up if you don’t find a way to deal with them.

“It just kind of all built up to a point where they were affecting life today,” Wheaton-Bird said. “Even though a lot of that stuff was behind me, it wasn’t really behind me.”

As for Maggrah, in the first episode she shared how guided meditation has helped her feel more calm.

“I really like being able to talk openly about my experiences and knowing that it’s helping other people,” Maggrah said.

She added that from the media she has seen, Maggrah notices that a lot of articles about mental health highlight expert voices. She added while her and Wheaton-Bird plan on interviewing experts in the future, she wants audience members to hear from people who have personal experience.

“I think people like knowing that the person that their listening to or seeing has had the very same experience that they had,” Maggrah said. “They’re not just talking about things that they’ve studied or read about.”

Wheaton-Bird knows her and Maggrah aren’t the only ones suffering through mental health issues.

“We want to help people because once you see improvement in your own health you want to share that, that’s how we both are,” she said.

As for their goal with the podcast, both Maggrah and Wheaton-Bird hope listeners learn from their experiences.

Maggrah added that she wants to open up the conversation about mental health to reduce stigma.

She said many people living with mental health disorders like depression, schizophrenia, bipolar and borderline personality disorder feel ashamed and Maggrah wants to make those people feel OK about having challenges with their mental health.

“People are always throwing around the word ‘crazy’ and dismissing people who they deem as crazy,” Maggrah said.“I just want to get the conversation started on mental health and to help normalize it.”

Unbroken can be found on YouTube at Saniska Media or at