Joanna Cannon on why it took her 50 years to learn it's OK to be her

My guest for Mental Health Awareness Week 2023 is mental health campaigner, psychiatrist and bestselling novelist Joanna Cannon.

Jo left school at 15 only returning to complete her A levels when she decided to train as a doctor in her late 30s. She specialised in psychiatry before leaving medicine to write in her mid-40s. (How many life shifts can one woman handle!?) But Jo’s passion for psychiatry, her patients and the way their stories changed her has stayed with her. Which is why she has compiled Will You Read This Please, a unique collection of stories of 12 mental health patients in the hope of shining a light on the stigma and isolation that still impact those living with mental illness.

Joanna joined me to from her home in the peak district, where she was born and still lives, to talk about the long family history of mental illness that formed her lifelong fascination with psychiatry, training as a doctor in midlife and the grim reality of working in the NHS. We also discussed why your date of birth is irrelevant, why you don’t have to have loads of friends to live a meaningful life, being a bad feminist and how red lipstick helped her change her attitude to life.

* You can buy all the books mentioned in this podcast at The Shift bookshop on, including Will You Read This Please and A Tidy Ending by Joanna Cannon, and the book that inspired this podcast, The Shift: how I lost and found myself after 40 - and you can too, by me.

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The Shift (on life after 40) with Sam Baker is created and hosted by Sam Baker and edited by Emily Sandford. If you enjoyed this podcast, please rate/review/follow as it really does help other people find us. And let me know what you think on twitter @sambaker or instagram @theothersambaker

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