John-Barry Waldron

A mental health nurse and podcaster has called on universities to give more support to students who may be suffering mental health problems.

Mental health awareness remains a paramount issue as suicide rates are on the increase.

John-Barry Waldron, a mental health nurse and the host of the award-winning podcast On the Ward, says students with undiagnosed mental illnesses are first detected and it is important that universities look after their students and give them the support they need.

“Some of this is based on outdated and old-fashioned images of what a mental health illness is.”
John-Barry Waldron, podcaster and mental health counsellor

“I think the stigma of antidepressants probably follows on from the stigma of mental illness in general.

“Some of this is based on outdated and old-fashioned images of what a mental illness is.

“If you watch movies or TV shows, their depictions of mental illness are nearly always that they are to be feared or the bad guy, such as the Joker, or Silence of the Lambs.”

There is a distinction between mental health which everyone has and mental illness which is a more formally diagnosed condition which requires treatment.

The On the Ward podcast aims to dispel a few of the myths by interviewing patients currently in mental health hospitals and trying to show that, although they have mental illness, that is not what defines them.

The On the Ward podcast

AUDIO: the beginning of the Lockdown episode of the On the Ward podcast

“We don’t generally see people with schizophrenia or bi-polar on TV,even though we know that schizophrenia affects at least one per cent of the population.

“In the UK that’s 600,000 people that we never hear from.

“I thought it was important to give them a voice and show that even though they’re in hospital their lives don’t stop – they are still doing great things like art and music.”

Michelle Ruth PG.Dip (MBACP), a qualified humanistic integrative counsellor, said some people feel that university is where you can have some of the best years of your life, but it can be incredibly challenging for students to manage their mental health.

Michelle Ruth

She said: “The brain isn’t fully developed until we reach 25, so students are being bombarded with new-life experiences and literally don’t have the tools to fully deal with them.

“Then you add the pressure to fit in, to ‘find yourself’, to study independently in a way that’s very different from school, to make new friends, go away from home for the first time and so on.

“It’s no wonder that university students struggle with anxiety and depression in a very real way.

“It wouldn’t take much for the generations above them to suffer with their mental health if they were in the same position.”