We spoke to Olisa’s best friend who has started a mental health podcast in his memory
The first episode features mental health activist Ben West as his guest
For many people, the purple heart emoji has become synonymous with paying their respects to Olisa Odukwe, the Bristol Uni student who passed away last month.
For best friend Nathan Azille, 20, what began as a way of remembering Olisa, became a mission to create a positive legacy, to create a conversation around mental health with the launch of the Purple Heart Podcast.
As the first episode released this week featuring mental health activist, Ben West, The Bristol Tab spoke to Nathan to understand what inspired him to undertake the challenge and what his aims are for the podcast.
“To have someone ripped away from your life at such a young age is just heart wrenching” Nathan told The Bristol Tab. “I believe if there’s something that you notice and there’s something that needs to be done about it, I believe it’s your obligation to do something”.
Nathan explained the podcast is his method of doing something and his experience of how Olisa’s death impacted him and Olisa’s other friends and family means it’s his mission to “stop just one person from doing that”. He went on to say: “If the podcast helps stop one person, I will feel like I’ve accomplished something, that’s my philosophy”.
While his friends have been quick to support him and check in with Nathan in the past month, Nathan believes we have to make this the norm and do more as a society to reach out to our friends. “It’s easy for someone to ask how you are doing and for you to respond that you are okay”, Nathan remarked.
“The importance of making that a routine and making it regular is that you notice the subtle differences in how they respond. If you think they wouldn’t normally respond like that, or if someone is feeling a bit different, then you can delve into that”.
Nathan accepts this isn’t easy for young people to do especially men who “always feel they have to impress girls and stay strong, not worry about themselves and look after people”.
These are themes that are discussed in greater depth by this week’s guest, Ben West. The mental health activist is well known among Bristol students for a widely shared video on social media heavily criticising Bristol Uni after he claimed to see documents that showed the university paid a PR company to “protect the university’s reputation over the coming months” in response to student suicides.
In the episode, Ben argues passionately for an increase in education around mental health. He believes just “talking” about your mental health isn’t enough when he himself admits: “I’ve had it so many times where I’m feeling a certain way but I can’t articulate that to someone, I have no idea what’s going on”.
“Not teaching young people about mental health and expecting them to deal with a mental health problem is like not teaching young people to read and then one day when they are 22 giving them a Charles Dickens novel and asking them to read it”, Ben explains.
In the 75 minute discussion, Nathan and Ben discuss the importance of more funding being put towards researching mental health, why university staff should receive mandatory mental health training and Ben’s campaign to include mental health support in university league tables.
The Purple Heart Podcast aims to cover a broad range of mental health conditions with weekly guests covering issues such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders and suicide.