MAINE, USA — Dr. Anne Hallward, a Maine-based psychiatrist, has been hosting the radio and podcast program "Safe Space Radio" for more than a decade. The program discusses a wide range of topics surrounding mental health like grief, loneliness, apologies and more.
In 2022, however, Hallward started focusing on how she can help a growing number of people struggling with their mental health.
"The pandemic has been so difficult for so many people, because people feel so isolated," Hallward said. "So this was one way to help people hear the voice of someone else that has the same struggle as they do," Hallward said.
Hallward has made her more than 300 episodes of Safe Space Radio available for free and as accessible as simply taking a picture on your phone.
"One of the impacts of the pandemic is that for people who went to outside restaurants, they know that instead of having a menu that everyone would touch, there's just a QR code," Hallward said. "So, we thought, everyone knows about QR codes now."
Hallward has partnered with a number of local businesses, public libraries and more to display table tents that provide information about Safe Space Radio, along with a QR code that directs people to a playlist featuring podcast episodes.
"Any subject that is hard to talk about but effects our health as individuals, families, and communities, that's what we want to talk about," Hallward said.
"It really appealed to me thinking about, 'What are the barriers to getting ones mental health taken care of?' And having radio show that really talk about the issues was really compelling," Coffee by Design co-owner Mary Allen Lindemann said.
Coffee by Design was one of the first businesses to begin displaying the table tents when businesses reopened following the shutdown at the beginning of the pandemic.
The table tends featuring QR codes was initially intended for doctors' office and therapist waiting rooms, but some familiar with the project quickly realized their business may be a good place for them.
Lindemann said the table tents displayed at her three coffee shops have been so well used that they're going to need new ones.
"She [Dr. Hallward] covers issues in ways that make it so accessible to people. Whatever issue you're struggling with, having that podcast, and having Anne be the one whose voice you heard, it's a win-win situation for us," Lindemann says.
Scarborough Public Library has also been displaying the table tents, and programming and communication manager Lucy Norvell said they've been well received. She has even been encouraging other libraries across Maine to display them.
"Putting something like this here seemed to be great way to make such wonderful public information more accessible to people," Norvell said.
"Anne Hallward's work is truly inspiration," Norvell said. "For people who have a chance to listen to more than one of the podcasts, they are deeply meaningful, particularly when you listen to them at a relevant time."
Hallward is hoping that with her impressive catalogue of episodes, listeners will be able to easily find something relevant to what they're going through.
"This was one way that we thought we could help. It's not as good as therapy, I'm not going to pretend," Hallward said. "But hearing other people who get you, who are like you, and have found ways that help them, it's a tremendous beginning and can make all the difference."
In her podcast, Hallward hosts different guests each week who talk about their journey navigating various life challenges and struggles with mental health, as well as discussing ways in which they found help.
For Hallward, it's been especially important to share her conversations at no cost, as many therapists and psychiatrists are fully booked and not taking in new patients.
"The mental health needs of our community in Maine and around the country are so tremendous right now. People are in great need, and the sad truth here in Maine is that all providers are full," Hallward said.
Safe Space Radio is not currently making new episodes, as they look to share the list of episodes. Hallward, however, stays very busy in her own practice and continues to hold discussion around mental health.
Right now, she's working with a group of Afghan refugees who fled to Bangladesh to attend university and presenting lectures surrounding mental health. Hallward has also recently given talks on navigating how climate change is impacting our mental health.
The full list of Hallward's podcasts and radio shows is available here.