New podcast provides an honest insight into life in a secure mental healthcare hospital

LISTEN: S1: Ep1 | On the Ward : Life

A unique five-part podcast is being launched today, challenging some of the myths and taboos around mental illness in the UK today, as it provides listeners with a rare look into what life is like for patients and staff living and working in a secure mental healthcare hospital.

The series, called ‘On the Ward’, is presented and produced by Staff Nurse John-Barry Waldron, who has worked at St Andrew’s Healthcare in Essex for 15 years. He said he wanted to give people a better understanding of what really happens behind the walls of a psychiatric hospital, as it documents the daily interactions between staff and patients.

Staff Nurse, John-Barry Waldron said:

“When people think of mental health hospitals they think of strait jackets and padded cells, but that’s such an outdated image of what life is really like here. Often when people are sectioned under the mental health act they essentially disappear from society. Through this podcast I wanted to give patients living with complex mental health issues a chance for their voices to be heard.

“Yes, there are dark times for many of our patients. Many have serious and complex mental health conditions, but that’s not to say they can’t have fun as well. The patients on our wards are human after all, and so are all the staff who work here.”

In Episode 1 of ‘On the Ward: Life’ we hear from one patient in his early 40s, who has been living at St Andrew’s for more than two years. During the episode the patient speaks candidly about the street drug Black Mamba or Spice, which he says ruined his life, causing him serious problems to his mental health. He also opens up to John about his childhood, explaining that his father was an alcoholic, and at the age of 13 he witnessed his mother die of a heart attack, all of which had an impact on his mental state.

The patient recalls how he was seriously ill when he first arrived at St Andrew’s, often showering in his clothes, walking around the ward naked, thumping walls and having delusions, many of which he can’t recall, but one in particular was about Hollywood actor, Jason Statham.

“I do remember seeing Jason Statham, but now it makes me wanna cringe talking about it,” he said.

“I know you think I’m crazy”.

To which John replies:

“Nobody thinks you’re crazy….there’s no shame or judgement.”

The patient says he says he’s been through an amazing transformation and is now “cured”. He hopes when he is discharged that he’ll be able to start a family. But during his discussion with John he explained there is still a lot of stigma attached to living in a secure mental health hospital and it’s often easier to tell friends and family that they’ve been in prison instead.

Staff Nurse, John-Barry Waldron added:

“As a society we have come a long way in breaking down barriers about depression and anxiety, but we still have a long way to go to demystify complex mental health conditions like schizophrenia and psychosis. Sometimes we find that the friends and family of some of our patients are reluctant to visit because in their minds a mental health hospital is like a scene featuring Hannibal Lector.

“I hope this podcast will go some way in raising awareness and showing that this place isn’t as scary as popular culture sometimes portray mental institutions to be.”

Assistant psychologist Mel Morgan and Healthcare Assistant Michael Mullally also feature in the first episode providing insight and analysis on a range of topics such as the pathway in which patients end up in hospital, to how and when they can leave.

Episode 1 of ‘On the Ward’ is available to listen now and will be available to stream on iTunes, Google Play and Stitcher.

The remaining episodes will be published weekly.