Art and soul to make life better

FDAMH members gather at their new artwork exhibition
FDAMH members gather at their new artwork exhibition

It’s a well known medical fact that laughter brightens your mood and can even fight off depression.

Just getting out and doing something other than sitting around dwelling on things is of great benefit to one’s state of mind.

The NHS even prescribes gym memberships as an alternative to depression counselling as doctors say getting fit is a brilliant way to fight the demons that get us down.

So it should be a good time had be all here then as a host of events celebrating this year’s Falkirk Mental Health Awareness Week have been organised.

One of them, ‘Health Scare: The Musical’ is a play that will be staged in Falkirk and District Association for Mental Health’s (FDAMH) Victoria Centre in Victoria Road on Wednesday (October 10).

The show is by Universal Comedy, a Scottish charity and social enterprise providing drama opportunities to people with long-term mental health problems.

While jokes and laughs are being used to highlight the difficulties and issues people face with mental health, there is a serious side to it.

The comedy element of the show is important in helping drive the crucial message that taking part in creative activities can help ease mental health problems and break down stigma barriers people associate with someone they can pigeonhole as ‘mental’.

Creative Scotland helped fund the project with Lottery cash. Its director of creative development Iain Munro said: “People with long-term health problems can often have feelings of isolation, boredom and depression.

“Taking part in creative activities can build self-esteem and confidence, transform parents’ lives and aid recovery from illness.

“We aim to ensure that arts and creativity touch the lives of everyone in Scotland, particularly in our hardest to reach communities.”

The free hour-long show features improvised comedy and stand-up from graduates who have mental problems.

Director and founder of Universal Comedy Patsy Morrison, who herself suffers from long-term ill health, said: “I really want people with long-term ill health to have a better chance of opportunities that will improve their quality of life.

“I hope that people will have a laugh and take life less seriously for an hour.”

In addition, FDAMH will host a series of events throughout October. An exhibition of new artworks by its media group and Artlink Central Artspace Group will run until October 31 in Falkirk Lesser Town Hall following its launch next week.

The charity is also staging its own “moving and humorous” play, ‘We Are All Bobby’ at the launch, featuring the recovery journeys of FDAMH users. Local author Alan Bissett, a patron of FDAMH, will speak on the day.

Meanwhile, Provost Pat Reid will open a community garden at the junction of Thornhill Road and Dalderse Avenue on Thursday, October 11 at 1 p.m.

The garden is a project by various groups within FDAMH.

Julie Law, FDAMH’s befriender co-ordinator, said: “There are some gorgeous pieces in the art exhibition and the ‘We Are All Bobby’ play is very moving.

“It’s a way for our users to express their feelings.

“All the work has been done by our users and they are learning all sorts of skills from directing plays to writing, technical proficiency, drama and curating.”

Glen Merrilees, from Hallglen, has been a user of FDAMH’s services for three years.

He is starring in the ‘We Are All Bobby’ play and can’t wait for the events to start.

He said: “Doing all this stuff has really helped raise people’s confidence and self-esteem.

“Personally, before I went along to FDAMH I was living like a hermit with neither of these things, but the support there has been absolutely phenomenal, and not just for me.

“I’ve seen another user go from not being able to even have her picture taken to standing in front of an audience and acting.

“It was an amazing turnaround.”