‘My Favorite Murder’ changes the way people understand mental health

Digital Originals

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) – A Bradley University Professor took her love of a podcast and turned it into an academic study.

Rachelle Pavelko, a self-described Murderino, is one of the millions who download the chart-topping podcast “My Favorite Murder.” Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark started the podcast after the pair said they met at a small dinner party. The podcast dropped its first episode in January 2016 and quickly rose up the charts.

“Thinking about how open and progressive the hosts are and how supportive they are about seeking treatment, it’s like listening to someone that’s a friend and if that helps you i’ts good. Those are things we don’t always hear in the media.”

Rachelle Pavelko, Asst. Professor at Bradley University

According to Pavelko’s bio on Bradley’s website, she specializes in “health communication and media effects—more specifically, how media trivialize certain mental illnesses and the relationship between trivialization and stigmatization processes.” Through the MFM fan community, Pavelko realized many fans felt as she did; the podcast has changed the way many consider mental health issues but in a positive way.

Pavelko decided to do a study on the idea and took it to the internet to get participants.

“In our survey [I found people] just talking about personal struggles they’re dealing with and how listening to Karen and Georgia helpped them through something, helped them safe their life, realize therapy is a positive thing.”

Rachelle Pavelko, Asst. Professor at Bradley University

Pavelko adds while excessive social media has been linked to things like depression when used in the right way it can create a community where members can lean on each other.

Murderinos said the fan community on Facebook has been incredible and allowed her to find new friends in “My Favorite Murder” Facebook sub-groups. She adds people she’s met in there could not be more supportive.

“[People] think they’re alone and if you start a conversation you don’t know how many people in the room are just like you.”

Jessica Stombaugh, self-described Murderino

“I can be like there’s a support group i want to check out and know that I don’t have to feel any type of shame about it because I’m hearing taking care of your mental health is a good thing.”

Makaen Serr, self-described Murderino

Pavelko also understands there are critics who say murder and comedy don’t mix.

“The Comedy aspect is part of it because it feels more comfortable to get invovled that you’re not just talking about true crime in a really horrific and anxiety-producing way.”

Rachelle Pavelko, Asst. Professor at Bradley University

“It’s really funny and they laugh about things that normally wouldn’t be funny and not in a disrespectful or irreverant way.”

Makaen Serr, self-described Murderino

Kilgariff and Hardstark often in the podcast explain their feelings on the issue saying they don’t criticize or laugh about the victims; the comedy is elsewhere.

You can read Pavelko’s research here.

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