Fighting Mental Illness One Laugh at a Time: New Stand Up For Mental Health Comics Take The Stage
May 4, 2009
Ottawa – You’d think people with mental illness would never be able to do something as terrifying as stand-up comedy. Vancouver-based counsellor and stand-up comic David Granirer, and his newly trained group of Ottawa-based Stand Up For Mental Health comics, are going to prove you wrong.
Granirer, who himself suffers from depression, runs Stand Up For Mental Health (SMH), a program that teaches stand-up comedy to people with mental illness. Featured in the Voice Award winning, CBC documentary, Cracking Up, SMH helps participants build self-esteem and fight the public stigma around mental illness. Thanks to a grant from Canada Post, Granirer has worked with 10 Ottawa residents who are now ready to share their mental health experiences, with laughter and special insight.
The group will perform their inaugural show on Friday, May 8 at the Bronson Centre (211 Bronson Ave). Tickets are $5.00 if you admit you’re crazy, $10.00 if you don’t. Tickets are available from Psychiatric Survivors of Ottawa (613.567.4379) or Collected Works Book Store (613.722.1265).
“Since choosing Mental Health as our Cause of Choice almost three years ago, we’ve heard incredible stories of hope and empowerment,” said Janie Randolph, Director of Canada Post’s Cause of Choice. “Being part of this innovative program that helps people recover and also spreads such a powerful message, is an honour. On behalf of everyone at Canada Post, I wish David and this great group of comedians incredible success!”
The comics were recruited by Psychiatric Survivors of Ottawa (PSO), a peer support organization, which is partnering with SMH to put on the event. “This is a great way to change the public’s perception of what it means to have mental health issues,” says Sonja Cronkhite a co-ordinator at PSO. “When it comes to mental illness, people are often too ashamed to seek treatment. Stand Up For Mental Health provides a great way of fighting the shame and making it okay to reach out and get help,” Cronkhite adds.
This message is spreading. In a show of bipartisanship, the government and opposition have proclaimed May 12 as Stand Up For Mental Health Day and are having the comics perform on Parliament Hill.
Granirer’s idea is also catching on across North America. He has run SMH in 12 cities across Canada and the United States, and mental health organizations frequently invite him to speak about the program. According to Granirer, “Americans are captivated by this idea. They have nothing like it in the States and we’re happy to share our success story.”