Fans of BBC1 drama Holby City will be aware that Jac Naylor (Rosie Marcel) has been struggling silently with her mental health for several weeks. The storyline has been building over several episodes and culminates on Tuesday December 17th.
As part of the storyline, one of St Andrew’s nurse managers, Akim Bande, was invited along to the set to provide a real life perspective and advise the team on how to deal with someone who is suffering from a mental health breakdown.
We spoke to him about his time on set and if he learnt anything while he was there.
Tell us about your time on Holby City, what were you there to do?
The crew and cast wanted to ensure that Jac’s storyline was as life-like as possible, so I was there as a psychiatric nurse advisor to ensure that the script and any actions undertaken by the nurses and doctors mirrored what would happen in real life.
Having worked on one of St Andrew’s psychiatric intensive care units (PICUs) for several years I have first-hand experience of what it is like for a person at crisis point, for example people can become very scared, they don’t know what’s going on. Quite often we find that it’s the first time someone may have reached crisis point, so they need a lot of reassurance and support. My current job is aimed at helping to stabilise patients, like in a psychical intensive care unit, but while also reducing their risks and improving their coping skills.
On set at Holby City I was there to ensure that the storyline was credible and as realistic as possible.
The story revolves around Jac Naylor and her mental health struggles; what happens to Jac?
I can’t give too much away until both episodes air, but Jac has been suffering in silence with her mental health for some weeks. She finally hits rock bottom at which point there is an intervention.
Jac finds it particularly hard to open up and I think one of my main pieces of advice to someone who can relate to her character is to talk, seek help, and open up. There are people out there who can help you recover, and that’s why services like ours exist.
To find out more about what happens to Jac I recommend watching Holby City on Tuesdays on BBC1, or catch up on BBC iPlayer.
Rosie Marcel who plays Jac Naylor has suffered from her own mental health problems, was it tough for her on set to play this role?
She’s publicly spoken about her own struggles with mental health, and I think it was really tough for her on set; in fact one of scenes was only filmed just once, because she didn’t think she would be able to film it again.
As much as my role was there to advise producers, I’m still a mental health nurse and I did spend some time with Rosie before filming for the scenes started, just to ensure she was ok, run through any trigger points and provide her with support.
I think she did such an amazing job in portraying what it may be like for someone who’s having a breakdown, and at times on set it felt like I was back on the PICU, as it felt very real.
Do you think it is important that dramas like Holby City address mental health issues?
Dramas and soaps are often a window onto the world and reflect what can happen in real life. Around one in four people will experience mental health problems, but there is still a lack of knowledge and a certain amount of fear and discrimination where mental illness is concerned.
It is important that programmes like Holby City continue to deal with real life issues - the more we talk openly about mental health problems the more we can break down the stigma attached to it.
Did you take anything away from your time on set?
I’d never been on a set before and so it was really interesting to see how things were done. Every shot and every scene was filmed to perfection and the teamwork which went into getting this done was absolutely incredible.
I know some think that the world of TV is glamourous, but it’s not an easy job. The actors, writers, and crew all have a responsibility to ensure that their storylines are credible and realistic. I think the cast of Holby really deserve to be praised for the effort and research which went into this storyline.
Holby City airs every Tuesday on BBC1 at 8pm. To listen to an interview between Akim and BBC Radio Northampton, click here.