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  • Writer's pictureTom Robinson

NexGen Minds podcast: voicing a few concerns and opinions

Last week I did my first podcast for a student mental health support service hosted by Maddie Clark from Durham University.

I was noticed through one of my LinkedIn posts and I was delighted to be asked to share some of my story and thoughts on mental health and mental illness on the NexGen Minds podcast.

NexGen Minds aims to normalise talking about mental health issues in an attempt to encourage others to speak out and seek help. I think it’s a great initiative, particularly since mental health and illness issues very often present themselves in a person’s late teens or early twenties.

University pressures and mental health

There’s so much that goes on in a young adult’s life regarding self-discovery and new experiences and the combined pressures involved in university life can be particularly difficult to contend with.

Trying to live up to expectations and achieving grades brings with it stresses and worries and dealing with societal norms, and peer pressures makes it even harder for young people to discover their own path and identity. Then there’s social media…. Don’t get me started on that one!

Combine all of these factors together and this can lead to self-confidence issues and mental health concerns and that’s why platforms encouraging an open conversation about mental health (and illness) are so important.

Advice through lived experience also plays such an essential part in the survival of others, and I think peer support also plays a vital role in encouraging people to seek support and help without feeling any shame in doing so.

The aims of the NexGen Minds podcast are to:

  • Draw attention to the mental health crisis unfolding amongst the youth

  • Eradicate the stigma attached to discussing mental health

  • Create and sustain a platform through which the youth can contribute to the discourse on mental health and well-being

  • Provide resources to enhance the wellbeing and strengthen the mental health of the next generation

If I’m completely honest, I would much rather sit behind the safety of my computer and tap away than be recorded on a podcast or video. I feel as though I can explain things far better through written rather than spoken word, but I also know that it’s important to appear on different platforms in order to reach people so even though I was a bit nervous, I took the plunge and recorded the podcast last week.

I’m so willing to do everything I can to help others and talking to Maddie was cathartic in a sense I suppose, although it can be quite hard to talk about some of the trauma and losses that I’ve endured over the last twenty years.

It’s been one hell of a battle and even though I’m better now, I still feel as though I shouldn’t really be here – what I had was quite honestly unsurvivable. This is another reason for my openness – I want others to get my treatment; there’s just so much I want to come out of this story.

Anyway, I know that there is nothing more important than helping other people so even though it’s hard sometimes, I am determined to keep writing and talking.

Medications and other topics of discussion

We covered a lot of different topics and I was sure to make a clear distinction between mental health and mental illness which are two completely different things.

This is important because the messages that we’re getting in the media are all for mental health / well-being and not for mental illness. It’s important to make the distinction because I feel as though people imagine that it’s somehow the person’s fault if they have a mental illness because they haven’t looked after themselves properly.

I can tell you that is not the case! Mental illness strikes the fittest of athletes and the most health conscious of people – it doesn’t discriminate and that’s what people need to understand.

Psychiatric drugs and the ketamine fiasco

I mentioned medications at one point in the interview and then found myself talking about the dangers of antidepressants (particularly for a bipolar patient) and the ketamine infusions fiasco that nearly cost me my life.

Funnily enough I happened to see a documentary last night about a research study that looked at the effect of another drug from the psychedelic category called psilocybin. I have to say that after the HORRIFIC NIGHTMARE that I went through with ketamine, trialling psychedelics for mental illness TERRIFIES me but the thing that made me laugh (actually cry) was the way that they treated their patients.

In the psilocybin study the patients were encouraged to lie down on a bed and were given an eye mask, had relaxing music played to them and were thoroughly supported throughout the administration process. In the ketamine fiasco/horror story/nightmare that I went through there wasn’t any of that at all.

We were given the disgusting horse tranquiliser and then left sitting on a plastic chair, often unsupervised as we tripped off to Mars and back, sometimes in the most frightening of K-holes where we were detached from any kind of rational thought.

When I look back at that treatment I am horrified by the lack of support and care. The treatment sent me wildly manic, and the extent of the support was that a healthcare assistant told me to take a herbal sleeping pill!

I didn’t so much as have my pulse taken and I’m still waiting to hear the outcome of an investigation into what happened having been fobbed off with excuses about not having to follow a treatment protocol.

The whole thing is so distressing that I try not to think about it but ketamine induced mania and hospitalisation must not be allowed to happen to others so I will continue to contest the use of psychedelics for mental illness.

The importance of stopping and not attaching guilt

I also spoke a bit about how I learned not to attach guilt to my illness and how that helped me to survive and recover.

The illness I endured was so unbelievably brutal that just surviving that alone regardless of the stigma, trauma, side effects and failures was nearly impossible. I can’t really sufficiently explain the relentlessness and the mental anguish, but the mind is so distorted that every negative emotion overpowers you and you feel guilt, shame, self-loathing, self-hatred and worthlessness in such monumental proportions.

“This is not my fault.”

It is ESSENTIAL therefore, that you tell yourself repeatedly that you are not going to add any extra guilt or shame to what you are already experiencing. I used to constantly remind myself of the fact that this is NOT my fault and I have a severe illness and a legitimate reason for stopping work until I get better.

This is what I think people (especially men) have a really hard time doing because the thought of losing all of the things that you’ve worked so hard on can be enough on its own to make you want to end your life.

All I can say is that yes, I did lose pretty much everything I ever worked for because of mental illness but I am in remission now and I have a chance at life again which would never have come about if I’d chosen to end my life.

I spoke about many other things on the podcast and finished up with a quote about resilience by English philosopher Bernard Williams who said:

“Man never made anything as resilient as the human spirit.”

I think that quote is very apt for those who are doubting themselves through the crippling effect of mental illness. It is true that you are a warrior for continuing to fight this illness and you are more resilient than you know.

If you would like to listen to the NexGen Minds podcast then you can find it here.

Thanks for reading,

Speak to you soon,


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