A UNIQUE five-part podcast recorded from inside a psychiatric hospital is challenging some of the myths and taboos associated with serious mental illness.

The series, called On the Ward, is presented by nurse John-Barry Waldron, who has worked at St Andrew’s Healthcare in Benfleet for 15 years, but newly qualified as a nurse in March.

He created the podcast to give people a better understanding of what really happens behind the doors of a psychiatric hospital.

He hopes that the series will educate people, and improve attitudes towards those suffering with mental ill health.

Mr 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said: “When people think of mental health hospitals they think of strait jackets and padded cells, but that’s such an outdated image of what life is really like here.”

Over the five episodes, listeners hear from patients with various mental health conditions, all of whom are receiving treatment for their illnesses.

One of the individuals featured is in his early 40s and has been living at St Andrew’s for more than two years.

He speaks candidly about the drugs which he says ruined his life, causing him serious problems with his mental health.

He explains there is still a lot of stigma attached to mental illness, and it’s often easier to tell his family and friends that he’s been in prison instead of spending time in a psychiatric hospital.

Mr 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 Lecter.

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

Another patient featured in the series was interviewed just before being discharged from the hospital, after almost ten years in secure mental health services.

The podcast is available now on iTunes and Google Play.

Visit http://ontheward.stah.org/