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Posted on Jun 20 2022 by Gabrielle Willis

Self-harm, psychosis and borderline personality disorder are just some of the key themes that patients from a psychiatric hospital will discuss in a forthcoming podcast about life as an inpatient.

The first episode of On the Ward will be released on Tuesday, June 21 and this series each week a different patient will give the listener an exclusive insight in average day in their life.

In this series a different direction has been taken as presenter John Barry Waldron follows a new patient each week who has agreed to give him an insight into what an average day looks like for them while staying at St Andrew’s Healthcare.

Vicky is the first patient who openly discusses her recovery journey from substance abuse, personality disorder and schizoaffective disorder, the name given to a condition which is a combination of schizophrenia and bipolar. 

As she discusses her health and the challenges she has overcome, Vicky attends a ward round and goes to her volunteering job at a nearby wood workshop called New Life Wood.

Vicky also discloses just how bad her mental health had got prior to receiving hospital treatment. During the worst periods, she suffered from extreme anger and experienced psychotic hallucinations, which were made worse by heavy drinking and substance abuse.

She said: “When I was going through the psychosis it was really scary because at one point I thought I had rats in my stomach. I wouldn’t eat, I wouldn’t drink, I wouldn’t shower and I didn’t do that for a couple of months.

“I’ve had hallucinations where I thought people were flying in the sky trying to catch me. Now when I look back it doesn’t seem all that scary, but at the time it was really frightening and very real to me. 

“But anger was my main issue because I thought everything could be solved by lashing out, which I’ve realised isn’t the case, it gets you nowhere.  ”

Three years on after participating in dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) sessions at St Andrew’ Healthcare, Vicky is getting ready to be discharged, where she will live in a flat that will be supported by community staff.

She added: “I want to go to college or Adult Education to do catering and business and I want to get my driving licence as soon as I get out as that will help me to get work. I am ready to start rebuilding my life.”

Vicky – along with five other St Andrew’s Healthcare patients – have bravely decided to share their complex mental health recovery journeys for the podcast. They have waived their right to anonymity to raise awareness, break the stigma commonly associated with mental health issues and to encourage people to talk more openly about their struggles.

John Barry, Senior Staff Nurse who worked at Northampton’s St Andrew’s Healthcare for 15 years, said: “This is the third series of On the Ward, which has been hugely popular so far. The feedback I’ve had from people at home is that they are fascinated hearing from patients who have experienced the extreme aspects of mental health.

“In recent years we’ve become better at having conversations about depression and anxiety, but conditions such as schizoaffective disorder, psychosis and personality disorders still remain relatively unspoken about. We hope On the Ward is showing listeners that our patients are just normal people that, for whatever reason, have become mentally unwell.

“It was important to us – and the patients – that we show people how far secure psychiatric hospitals have come. There is still a stigma attached to complex mental health, which I think may revolve around straitjackets and padded cells. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

“Once patients start to show signs of improvement they are given free time away from the wards. It is done in a measured and slow way, that meets the patient’s own recovery pace, while also ensuring their safety is the number one priority at all times. Once they’ve built up their confidence, we have patients who regularly volunteer, go swimming and generally try to integrate themselves back into the community.”

This is the first time the podcast has gone out and about with patients. The previous series, which attracted more than 20,000 downloads, focused on interviewing each individual within the hospital setting.

The first episode, which will feature Vicky will be released on Tuesday, June 21 and a new episode will follow every Tuesday after that for five weeks.

The podcast can be found via web browsers such as Chrome, Safari and Microsoft Edge or podcast apps, such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts.