🏥 The North in Numbers: the hidden pandemic
A behind the scenes look at the mental health episode of the data journalism podcast
The world is facing two pandemics: the coronavirus pandemic and the mental health pandemic.
This is the argument that you will hear on the latest episode of The North in Numbers.
The data journalism podcast, hosted by Annie Gouk, looks at the human stories behind the statistics.
And this week, The North in Numbers investigates the surge in mental health issues seen across the UK in the wake of the pandemic.
Annie speaks to those who have needed support for their conditions and the experts working on the front line. She explores the massive strain that is put on mental health services, with unprecedented demand and huge backlogs.
‘Mental health: The hidden pandemic’ will be the focus of this edition of our Laudable Podcasts newsletter.
Annie shares what she has learned from interviewing the guests on The North in Numbers, and one of the episode’s contributors explains why he decided to open up about his struggles on the podcast.
🎙️ The shocking stark reality of the mental health pandemic
Annie Gouk is the deputy editor of data and multimedia at Reach, working on titles such as the Manchester Evening News. Since 2019, she has hosted The North in Numbers. Annie explains the thought process behind the latest episode of the podcast…
We’d heard anecdotally that there’s been a big increase in demand for mental health services because of the pandemic, and that this was causing even longer waiting lists than normal.
But it was still shocking to see the stark reality of the situation, after exploring the figures and speaking to people who have been affected - things are really bleak at the moment.
What stood out the most was speaking to someone who had been hospitalised after struggling to access treatment for his worsening bipolar symptoms, who wasn’t even offered that treatment while in hospital or after being discharged, despite attempting to take his own life on multiple occasions.
It really hit home that behind the numbers, these issues are having a devastating impact on people’s lives.
Hearing from those working on the front line in the episode, the government and the NHS should take on board that more funding is needed to tackle the problem - but also, that mental health needs to be taken more seriously, on par with physical health.
It would truly save lives.
In terms of the rest of the series, we’re going to be taking a look at the rising tide of fly tipping that’s blighting the North’s streets, as well as how the soaring cost of living is impacting the region.
🧠 Why I ‘came out’ as bipolar on The North in Numbers
The aforementioned person with worsening bipolar symptoms was - well - me.
Hello! Dan McLaughlin here. Award-winning podcast producer (I am still milking that for all it is worth) and now, self-confessed manic depressive.
After spending most of my time producing, recording, and editing podcast interviews, it was particularly strange to be on the other side of things, and be a guest on The North in Numbers.
So why did I do it? Why did I choose to open up on such a personal and traumatic issue, and ‘come out’ as bipolar?
As Annie touched upon in the episode, education is such an important tool in combating this hidden pandemic. And the best education is hearing firsthand about those diagnosed with mental health conditions, and accessing services on the NHS.
It was the Stephen Fry documentary ‘The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive’ that first led to my diagnosis on Bipolar Disorder Type II several years ago.
After watching the documentary, I felt less lonely in coping with this illness - and more equipped in dealing with the ‘black dog’.
Other people speaking out - despite the taboo and the trauma - helped me significantly, and felt only right to return this favour.
Listening to the full podcast episode, I was firstly in awe of the stunning work of journalism by Annie, and the silk smooth production from Mark Magill.
The North in Numbers team once again takes on a rather complex and delicate subject, and beautifully and sensitively tells the story in an educational and accessible manner.
They give the guests, who are opening up about their own experiences with their conditions or on the health care front line, a judgment-free platform, allowing them a comfortable space to breathe and share their stories.
I found myself nodding along to my fellow guests, hearing their anecdotes and examples. It was an enlightening listen, and I am sure it will be for you, too.
My time on the mental health ward as a voluntary patient, which I liken to being institutionalised, still haunts me, as I explain on the podcast. But I hope sharing my story has exorcised some of those demons.
The North in Numbers returned for its third series this month, premiering with an episode dedicated to levelling up. It is another example of the amazing work from Annie and co.
And of course, check out our other podcasts - from parenting babies to pupping parenting, politics to true crime, poking fun at the menopause to flying the rainbow flag, Laudable has you covered.
In the meantime, stay safe, stay positive, stay informed, and stay tuned.
- Dan McLaughlin