‘We have learned the importance of conversation. How it is so important to talk about things that are troublesome at an early stage. In that way we think that we can prevent a lot of mental health issues from developing into clinical anxiety disorders.’ Ida Höckerstrand and Sofie Hallberg started their podcast Ångestpodden over four years ago. We got the chance to talk to them about how it all began, their favorite episodes and political actions that need to be taken to better the mental health situation in Sweden. Tell us a little bit about your story!Ida: I was born and raised in a small town called Karlshamn. I am a sensitive, driven and happy person who has decided to work with something that makes a difference. I love music and football.Sofie: I am 25-years old and just like Ida, I’m also from Karlshamn. I am a calm, nostalgic person who likes to spend time with my family and friends.How did you meet and why did you decide to start Ångestpodden (The Anxiety Podcast) together in 2015?We met in seventh grade when we started music class. We found each other very quickly and realized that we both had the same interests and humor. We became best friends almost instantly. We started Ångestpodden because it was something we felt like we needed ourselves.I (Ida) was in therapy for a panic disorder during the fall of 2014 and felt very much alone with it. Around the same time, I found a report from The National Board of Health and Welfare saying, “one in four young people suffer from mental health issues.” I was so shocked when I read it and realized there is this huge social problem that no one talks about. So during a train trip in October of 2014, I texted Sofie: “Ångestpodden. Are you in?”And I (Sofie) said, yes, I’m in. In addition, this wasn’t the first time we had come in contact with mental health issues. A few years earlier, our best friend had gotten diagnosed with bulimia. Then and there it felt like our whole world fell apart and that there was nowhere to turn where we could read about or listen to someone in the same situation as ours. We had never heard of the term mental health issues before and were of course very concerned for our friend. Thinking back on that situation and finding out how common it was, especially among young people, made us decide to do something about it, as in provide the kinds of support that would have made things easier for us back then.You have now released over 200 episodes where you’ve talked about everything from prostitution and alcoholism to beauty standards and ADHD. Sometimes you have guests and sometimes it’s the two of you having an honest conversation. What is one important thing you have learned over the past four years? We have learned the importance of conversation. How it is so important to talk about things that are troublesome at an early stage. In that way we think that we can prevent a lot of mental health issues from developing into clinical anxiety disorders.We have also learned that EVERYONE, no matter who you are or where you are from, experiences anxiety sometimes in life and that you should never have to feel alone with your problem.What has been the biggest challenge with the podcast and how have you changed since it started?The hardest part is probably reading our listeners’ stories that a lot of times are very tough and sad. At the same time, they give us strength and motivation to continue with the podcast and be the best opinion-makers we can. Every week when we sit down to make the podcast, it is like having a little therapy session, and it means a lot to both of us. If you were able to take political action to better the situation for mental health in Sweden, what would you do? And is there any particular lingering prejudice or stigma when it comes to mental health that you feel we need to get rid of once and for all? OMG we would want to do so much. First and foremost, it is a financial question. Publicly-funded psychiatric help, especially for children and young people (like BUP, barn-och ungdomspsykiatri), needs to be financially prioritized, which it isn’t today.Politically, we have to strengthen student’s health. All Swedish students must have access to a school welfare officer and be able to get help quickly. Today this “access” isn’t specified in the Education Act, which means it’s up to every school to interpret it as they like. This has led to school welfare officers being responsible for a thousand students or more. This is insufficient, and we have to specify in the Education Act what exactly “access” really means. The stigma we are most tired of hearing is saying “pull yourself together” or “get a grip” to someone who suffers from mental health issues. We have to understand that mental illness is a disease and a clinical disorder, not a choice someone makes. In one of your episodes you describe how you had a lot of confidence when you were in your teens. What do you do today to feel good about yourself?We try to be nice to ourselves. To be understanding and forgiving of others is easy, but to be kind to yourself is a lot harder. We try to do things we think are fun, say no to things we don’t want to do, and to eat whatever we feel like. What are you proudest of in your career so far?That Ångestpodden is used in schools and that we wrote our book Vi borde vara lyckliga (We Should be Happy).If you had to choose, which is your favorite episode and why? Ida: Episode 105. An episode where a woman by the name Elise Lindqvist was a guest. At a young age, she was introduced to prostitution and exposed to sexual violence and abuse. Today, she helps young women in the same situation she was in. She is called “The Angel of Malmskillnadsgatan” because she helps the girls that are sex workers there. It was an episode that deeply moved me, and Elise really is an angel. It is one of our most listened to ever.Sofie: Episode 148, titled “I believe that as we pass through time the best things have already happened.” In that episode, we really put into words our nostalgia for the first time and we also figured out that it is one of the keys to our friendship; that we both romanticize the past. This has really helped me fundamentally, to understand myself and why I act as I do in certain situations.What are your plans for the summer?Ida: I am going to relax in Karlshamn with my family and boyfriend. Later on, my boyfriend and I are going to Italy.Sofie: I bought a boat last summer along with my little brother and a childhood friend, so the only thing I’m going to do this summer is enjoy the archipelago in my boat.