Spreading Mental Health Awareness
Forum Theatre Performances
Goa and New Delhi, September 2014.
Radha Ramaswamy, Centre for Community Dialogue and Change
Did you know that of your 100 friends and relatives, between five and ten people would develop a mental illness at some point in their life?
But, given the social stigma and lack of awareness about mental illness, there is delay in recognizing and treating mental illness. This has serious consequences for both patients and their families.
Diagnosed early and treated adequately, the burden of mental illness can be significantly reduced.
Healing Minds is an initiative of Act For Change and Oxford University Dramatic Society, in partnership with CCDC. 12 actors, from Oxford University and different parts of India, participated in a week-long workshop led by Radha Ramaswamy to create a play on post natal depression. The workshop included, besides several Theatre of the Oppressed games, activities that allowed each of the participants to discover their own connections to the issue of mental health, and listening to narratives shared by people who had experienced mental illness.
The group then devised a play on post natal depression (depression that some women experience soon after giving birth to a child). The focus was on creating an authentic story woven out of our own life experiences and our imaginative interpretation of stories we had heard first hand.
Over the next 2 weeks, we took this play to diverse groups in Goa and New Delhi - young and not so young- school children, men and women struggling with urban poverty and marginalisation, policemen and medical students and faculty.
Everywhere, our Forum performances invited, and successfully encouraged audiences to transform themselves from passive spectators to spect-actors- to step into the play and try to make a change- change that would reduce the suffering of everyone involved, but chiefly , the young mother displaying depressive symptoms.
Over 1000 people witnessed and participated in these performances.
This has been a profound experience with huge learning. We are more than ever committed to working in the area of mental health.
CCDC is very grateful to Act for Change, and OUDS,Oxford; Sangath, Goa, the Public Health Foundation of India, New Delhi,and Umeed, New Delhi.