Suicide and Mass Shootings

Dear Psychodrama Listeners: We hope that this Spring 2021 is treating you all well. As we emerge from the pandemic and aspects of normal life return, unfortunately, in the USA, this means a return to elevated number of mass shootingswhich had decreased in 2020 as the US went into lockdown. Indeed, on the weekend we recorded this episode, there was a mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado that left 7 people dead including the shooter who killed himself during the incident. That shooting marked the 13th mass killing in the US and the second one in Colorado for 2021. 

Noting the relationship between suicidal behavior among many mass shooters, in this episode we decided to delve into the the relationship between suicide and mass shootings as we capitalize in our respective expertise areas. Katie discusses her blog post from Psychology Today noting a decrease in reported suicides in 2020, despite increased gun sales and suicidal ideation in the past year. We contextualize these paradoxical data within Thomas Joiner’s Interpersonal Theory of Suicide. Then, we talk about a review that Leo conducted of the very interesting book “The Myth of Martyrdom” by Adam Lankford which discusses the role of psychological disorders on suicidal terrorism and we draw parallels to mass murder-suicide in the US. Then, Katie discusses Joiner’s book, “The Perversion of Virtue” which further explores the topic of murder-suicide, and we highlight the need to better understand what separates individual suicide, murder-suicide of people the perpetrator knows (e.g., family members), and mass-murder suicide of people unknown to the perpetrator. We then talk about the suicide contagion effect and how its opposite, the Papageno effect may also be harnessed to reduce mass-suicide shootings in the US as summarized in this proposal by Leo.

This is an especially complex, multifaceted phenomenon that, understandably, elicits strong, emotional and intellectual responses.  We could have talked about it for much longer and tried to do our best to give it the nuanced treatment it deserves in the limited time for the podcast.  We will likely revisit parts of it, especially as Katie’s book: The Suicidal Thoughts Workbook: CBT Skills to Reduce Emotional Pain, Increase Hope, and Prevent Suicide comes out in July 1st and we’ll have our live Psychodrama-o-Rama talking about it. We hope you find it interesting and look forward to your comments.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, there is hope and help available. Please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741


Addiction, Science Communication, & Twitter Trolls with Dr. Jonathan Stea

We enjoyed this fascinating interview with Dr. Jonathan Stea about the nuance needed in discussions about addiction and drug decriminalization. He shared his pathway into clinical psychology and then debunked some misconceptions about addiction. Drawing on his expertise, clinical experience, and data, Dr. Stea talked about his views on effective strategies for curtailing the opioid epidemic. He highlighted conditions under which cannabis use could potentially harm mental health and his science communication through efforts such as #ScienceUpFirst. We concluded by hearing Dr. Stea’s helpful tips for managing internet trolls and online harassment. We enjoyed making this episode and hope you enjoy listening to it!

Expert Guest Bio: 

Jonathan N. Stea, Ph.D., R. Psych., is a registered and practicing clinical psychologist and Adjunct Assistant Professor. Clinically, he works in a tertiary care outpatient clinic that specializes in the assessment and treatment of concurrent addictive and psychiatric disorders. He is interested in topics related to science communication and health misinformation in popular media, especially with respect to addiction and mental health. He is a coalition member of #ScienceUpFirst (, which is a Canadian-wide awareness and engagement initiative that creates, distributes and amplifies best-in-class, science-informed content surrounding COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccine.


Follow Dr. Stea and #ScienceUpFirst on Twitter.

Read Dr. Stea’s work in Psychology Today and Scientific American.

Drug Addiction vs. Drug Dependence

Is Cannabis Helpful or Harmful for Mental Health?

When Promoting Knowledge Makes You a Target

The Potential Fatal Flaw in Andrew Yang’s Opioid Policy

The Psychology of Online Trolling

If you like our show, please leave a review and rating on Apple Podcasts, so more people can find us! Thank you for listening!

Discussing “Racial Justice Requires Ending the War on Drugs”

In this episode we discuss the recent article: “Racial Justice Requires Ending the War on Drugs” (Earp, Lewis, Hart, & Bioethicists and Allied Professionals for Drug Policy Reform, 2021). The article highlights ways in which the war on drugs in the US has perpetuated racism, exemplified by the recent, heartbreaking killing of Breonna Taylor during a botched drug raid in 2020. Informed by history and data, the article argues for decriminalizing drugs as a necessary step for racial justice in the US and globally, given that the drug war has impacted sociopolicy across continents for decades. The topic is near and dear to Katie and Leo for a variety of personal and professional reasons. As we discuss the article we weave Leo’s experiences growing up in Colombia during the height of the drug war, and Oregon becoming the first U.S. state to decriminalize the possession and personal use of all drugs. We also discuss the benefits of treating substance use-related problems through a public health policy following Portugal’s approach rather than through criminal justice system which has not borne desired results, as rates of drug use remain stable or have increased in past few years in particular for opioids and stimulants. We also touch on obstacles in the current system for people seeking help, the DARE program, and the role that pharmaceutical companies have played in overprescription of these drugs. In our next episode we will include an expert guest and focus on mental health implications and treatment and hopefully some data on legalization trends across the world. As usual, we lighten the mood here and there by discussing delicious Portuguese octopus dishes and Katie’s experiences with the DARE program in 5th grade. We are probably not going to get any pharmaceutical company sponsorships after this one.  

Thanks for listening! We are looking into re-broadcasting these episodes in Spanish please let us know what you think of the idea. If you enjoy our podcast, please rate and review us on Apple/iTunes so other people can find us. You can find us on Twitter: @_psychodrama_. Thank you so much!

Political Psychology, Southern Identities, Trump, & the January 6th Insurrection with Dr. Chris Cooper

In light of the insurrectionist riot on January 6th in Washington DC, which among many other things, brought images of the confederate flag carried by the insurrectionists at the U.S. Capitol, we are excited to have Dr. Chris Cooper from Western Carolina University as a guest in Psychodrama. Chris is the Robert Lee Madison Distinguished Professor and Department Head of Political Science and Public Affairs at WCU. He is also the co-author of the book, “The Resilience of Southern Identity: Why the South Still Matters in the Minds of its People” and is co-editor of The New Politics of North Carolina. His political psychology research into Southern identities and politics provided a unique perspective to the events of the last 4 years and we had a very stimulating conversation with him. We also sprinkled some levity into the conversation about eating one of Iceland’s gastronomical delicacies: hákarl.  We hope you enjoy this episode and find as interesting, if not disquieting, as we did. 

Readings mentioned in the episode:


What Trump Shares With the Lost Cause of the Confederacy– Karen L. Cox, NYTimes opinion.

Political Sectarianism in America-Finke et al., (2020)- Science


The Resilience of Southern Identity: Why the South Still Matters in the Minds of Its People Chris Cooper and Gibbs Knot

The Long Southern Strategy: How Chasing White Voters in the South Changed American Politics– Angie Maxwell and Todd Shields

The Rise of the Latino Vote-Benjamin Francis-Fallon

Deep Roots: How Slavery Still Shapes Southern Politics– Avidit Acharya; Matthew Blackwell & Maya Sen.

Learning from Loss: The Democrats, 2016–2020– Seth Masket

The Sociology & Psychology of Cults with Dr. Janja Lalich

Note: This episode contains some discussion of cults and sexual abuse.

For our first episode of season 2 we are extremely happy and honored to have Dr. Janja Lalich who is a leading world authority in cults and extremist groups. Dr. Lalich is a former Fulbright scholar, Professor Emerita of Sociology at California State University, Chico, and author of multiple articles and the books in the topic including “Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships” and “Bounded Choice: True Believers and Charismatic Cults.” She has been featured in multiple national and international journalistic outlets including NPR, Meet the Press and the BBC to talk about prominent cults including Heaven’s Gate and recently the NXIVM cult. We spoke with Dr. Lalich about her own experience in a political cult earlier in her life and how it influenced her later research.  We could have spent all day speaking with Dr. Lalich about her insights and research about why people stay in cults, parallels between cults and abusive relationships, and differentiating extremist religious and political factions from cults. We concluded with some excellent advice for family and loved ones who may find themselves in a cult. We are very happy to bring you this episode and hope you enjoy listening to it as much as we did recording it. 


New York Times article about the NXIVM cult

Dr. Janja Lalich’s website & resources

Season 1 over, Season 2 Upcoming!

Hi Psychodrama listeners! First, we hope that you and your loved ones are doing well through these first days of November which continue to be challenging and have definitely been filled with more than our fair share of well, drama!  We also would like to thank you all for your continued listening and support.  It has been great fun and very rewarding to put together this podcast for you and as we have mentioned, it is an integral part of our self-care during this intense 2020 and we could not do it without you, our listeners. 

As we have completed season 1 we are hard at work planning Season 2 (Part Deux: “The Seasoning”).  We already have at least 3 episodes planned so be on the lookout for more interesting interviews and stories about the intersection between psychology and societal issues and controversies including Sex Cults! Why some White academics are faking their ethnic identities! And, the decriminalization and legalization of drugs as part of criminal justice reform.  So, be on the lookout for those a week after Thanksgiving!  Thanks, and talk soon! 

Katie and Leo

Cobra Kai & Some Psychology Too

After having the past few weeks marked by very grave serious national news that added to our already maxed-out pandemic related stress, forest fires in the Western United States, the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Trump’s taxes being released, a chaotic presidential debate, the death of prominent psychologist Dr. Scott Lilienfeld, and then Trump predictably contracting COVID – we decided to do a fairly lighthearted show this time around.  

We talk about Cobra Kai and examine its characters from a psychological perspective. There are a bunch of spoilers but surely you all have binged on it already so there is nothing to spoil. And if you have not seen Cobra Kai, go watch it; it is great. And still listen to this episode because psychological science shows that “Story Spoilers Don’t Spoil Stories”and in fact it may actually improve them.

We had a blast making this episode as we discussed all the rumbles we were involved in as teenagers as well as Bananarama, both the band and the pancakes. This past summer was a cruel, cruel, summer indeed, enjoy this respite before November because it looks like 2020 is showing NO MERCY!”

More about Dr. Scott Lilienfeld and his contributions to psychology:

Remembering Dr. Lilienfeld

50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology

Psychological Treatments that Cause Harm

The Dodo Bird verdict: Status in 2014

College Mental Health & Controversy During the Pandemic with Dr. Helen Hsu

We were thrilled to have expert guest, Dr. Helen Hsu, join us for an episode about the important topic of college mental health! We discussed controversy surrounding college re-opening plans and enforcement of physical distancing policies–including what we think we would do if we were college students in 2020. Dr. Hsu shared her observations about how mental health concerns among students have changed both across generations and pre- vs. post-pandemic. She also shared what she thinks is driving those changes. We talked about coping strategies during the pandemic including anti-all-or-nothing-thinking, taking nonjudgmental attitudes towards ourselves, safe socializing, creating a sense of purpose, and learning radical acceptance. We enjoyed making this episode and hope you enjoy listening to it! Thanks so much!


You can follow Dr. Helen Hsu on Twitter and Instagram.

Read her moving article for McSweeney’s here: Pixels of Empathy.

Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers Video

Radical Acceptance Video 1

Radical Acceptance Video 2

Mental Health among Black Men & Culturally Competent Therapy with Dr. Bedford Palmer

We were very lucky to have Dr. Bedford Palmer join us this week for a fascinating discussion! First, we talked about a mental wellness virtual town hall featuring Barack Obama, John Lewis, and activists from My Brother’s Keeper. Then, we talked about obstacles faced by Black men seeking therapy–including a need for more culturally competent therapists and misperceptions about disinterest in therapy. Dr. Palmer explained what strength-based, culturally competent therapy means and the upsides and downsides of training barbers as paraprofessionals to address gaps in mental health care. We concluded by discussing the inspiration for Dr. Palmer’s beautiful children’s book, “Daddy Why Am I Brown?” We really enjoyed making this episode and hope you enjoy listening! Check out episode 11 for the first part of our discussion with Dr. Palmer.


Dr. Palmer’s website

Dr. Palmer’s Children’s Book: “Daddy Why Am I Brown?”

Follow Dr. Palmer on Instagram and Twitter

Dr. Palmer’s podcast, Naming It

Follow Psychodrama on Instagram and Twitter.

If you like our show, please rate and review us on Apple. Thank you!

Psychology, A Racism Pandemic, & Kanye West with Dr. Bedford Palmer

We were very lucky to have Dr. Bedford Palmer join us this week for a fascinating discussion! First, we chatted about Dr. Palmer’s pathway to his Ph.D. and becoming a licensed psychologist and professor. Then, we talked about living in what the American Psychological Association president labeled a racism pandemic. We concluded by asking about Dr. Palmer’s thoughts on Kanye West’s music, mental health, and political aspirations. We really enjoyed making this episode and hope you enjoy listening! Check out episode 12 for the second part of our discussion with Dr. Palmer.


Dr. Palmer’s website

Dr. Palmer’s Children’s Book: “Daddy Why Am I Brown?”

Follow Dr. Palmer on Instagram and Twitter

Dr. Palmer’s podcast, Naming It

Follow Psychodrama on Instagram and Twitter.

If you like our show, please rate and review us on Apple. Thank you!