Mental health centre stage

A scene from 'Waving, Not Drowning'.
A scene from 'Waving, Not Drowning'.

A major new production based on research with people experiencing mental health issues and local professionals in the field is to be staged at the Playhouse in Derry next week.

The ‘Waving Not Drowning Mental Health Roadshow’ project has been developed by the cross-border Bread and Roses Theatre Company.

The group, who hail from Derry and Donegal have described the project as an imaginative attempt to address concerns over mental health, through a montage of original short plays, sketches and songs.

Initiated by Mark McCollum, Tanya McLaughlin and Kathleen McCreery, the project began last January, and ten local writers and actors were chosen to attend weekly workshops.

Mark McCollum said: “We all felt passionately about it, we had all been touched by it in some way, and a number of participants had professional experience in the mental health field.”

The group entered into an intensive period of research, interviewing users of the mental health services, and inviting guest speakers including a GP, a psychologist and a TD.

The group have pointed to research which shows one in four people will have mental health problems at some stage in their lives.

‘Waving, Not Drowning’ aims to address what life is like for the one in ten people in Ireland suffering from depression; and also examines the impact of the deaths of the 451 people who died by suicide last year.

It also poses questions over why more is not being done to address these issues, and, why it is okay to talk about physical conditions but much harder to discuss conditions such as schizophrenia.

Kathleen McCreery, a trained counsellor as well as an experienced playwright and teacher of creative writing, facilitated the workshops and mentored the writers as they began to develop plots and characters.

“We wanted to ensure that the voices of those who are struggling, and those who care for them and work with them are heard,” she said. “We had no blueprint and no idea what would come out of the process.

“The montage framework allows us to tackle a range of subjects, from bullying to bereavement, from social anxiety to self-harm.”

‘Waving, Not Drowning, the Mental Health Roadshow’ will be staged at the Playhouse in Derry on Friday, March 10 at 8pm.

Tickets are priced at £10 and £8 concession (with group discount available).