In 2018 Stuff journalist Adam Dudding won a Mental Health Media Grant for his
seven-part podcast series Out of My
Mind. Billed as ‘stories about mental health, told by the people who’ve been
there’, the series interviewed seven Kiwis from all walks of life about their
experiences with mental distress.
In 2020, Out of My Mind won a Voyager Award for joint Best Episodic/Recurrent
Podcast. We sat down with Adam to find out how his project, described by award judges as
“thoughtful, brave and truly insightful”, became such a success.
Where did the idea for Out of My Mind come from?
A few years
ago, my friends Taimi and Stuart Allan told me about an art project where they
interviewed people about their experiences of hearing voices, then hired scripted actors
and created a headphones-based installation recreating the situation you were listening
to. There’s also an American podcast I love called Love and Radio, where just
one person tells their story. It occurred to me that by nicking bits of each of those
projects, I could make another interesting one.
What do you think it is about podcasts that make them such a great way for people
to access stories?
There’s an intimacy to it. You have a close
one-to-one relationship with whoever is talking at the time and you listen through
headphones, so it’s more immersive as well. So, if you’re listening to someone’s stories
about mental distress, it’s a really good pathway to care about the person you’re
You had a wide range of stories in the series – was that
It was very deliberate. When it comes to wanting to
represent different voices, you have to think about what that means. In an ideal world
you’d cover a wide range of New Zealand’s multi-ethnic society. You want young and old,
North Island and South Island, big city and small city. And then on top of that, I
really wanted to capture diversity in the range of experiences they had, in terms of
What have you learned through developing Out Of My Mind?
learned a lot about mental health while doing this… it kept striking me again and again
that the feelings people described were things I could relate to: feeling overwhelmed,
or hyper-alert, or over-stimulated or anxious. I haven’t experienced any of these things
to the extent that the interviewees had but it was like ‘oh yes, I get that’. It’s just
regular life turned up to an unbearable degree.
How was the feedback?
It was good! There was somebody who said they’d
been trying to explain their issues to family and friends and never quite got there, but
one of the podcast stories did that for them. Someone else said they’d never really
understood what mental illness was about – and now they did. I also had a few people
say, ‘I’ve been diagnosed with x, y and z and that particular story captured my
Those are the things I was hoping to achieve – to have people who knew nothing about
mental illness go ‘oh, that’s what it feels like, that’s interesting’, and people who
had their own experience to go ‘I feel seen’ or ‘that feels authentic’.
How did you find working with the Mental Health Foundation in the
Marvellous. It would have been virtually impossible to do this
project without that grant; it carved a big fat four-lane motorway in front of me to be
able to do it. It made it all possible.
What would you say to anyone interested in applying for a grant this time
Have a crack! Applying for a grant forces you to spend a day, or
two, or three really nutting something out before you present it to someone. That
process of thinking it through is really useful and ultimately, I got the grant.
The people I owe the greatest debt of gratitude to are the interviewees that gave me
their time – and in some cases, it was a lot of time. People who were willing to put
themselves up on display to reveal their intimate secrets and their darkest moments, to
trust me to try and tell it in a way that was honest. Those are the other people I’m
most grateful to.
Apply for a Journalism grant
Photo credit: Stuff/Chris Skelton