Oct 312013

get over it1I’m getting that scared-but-excited and daunted-but-can’t wait feeling in the pit of my stomach. It can only mean one thing: rehearsals start next week.

It’s a while since I’ve been in the rehearsal room; much of my role as Co-Director of Theatre at Take Art has been to support others in making theatre. So I’m itching to get going.

The show I’m directing is called Get Over It! It’s the second phase of Word/Play, a two year initiative that brings together theatre, spoken word and digital media to create change. It’s for people in Somerset: individuals, groups and communities. Anyone, in fact, who wants their voice to be heard, to feel better about themselves or to make a difference in their lives.

Why am I feeling the fear? Partly because the show is devised (I usually feel safer commissioning a writer); partly because I’ve lived with the project for such a long time and I really (really) want it to succeed; and partly because it’s a show about mental health. I’m feeling the pressure (completely self-imposed) to say, and do, and think, well… the right thing.

In my research, the more I’ve been exploring the mental health of other people, the more it’s made me think about my own. I’ve spoken to, and read stories of, people with social phobias; obsessive compulsive disorders; bipolar depression; and a whole raft of psychoses. And it’s made me reflect on my own discomfort with large crowds; my obsession with lists (and lists-of-lists!); the weird thing I have about corduroy (the thought of even touching it makes my mouth and palms go dry); and my inability to get a good night’s sleep in my own bed. All petty, silly things. (actually, the sleep one isn’t).

I’m not being flippant; I’m aware that any of these could get out of hand and start interfering with my ‘normal’ life. The black dog could be waiting just around the corner. As it could with anyone.

We all have mental health. And, like physical health, it exists on a continuum. We just live at varying places, at different times, along it. Yet there are so many stories in the press at the moment illustrating that ignorance surrounding mental health is painfully apparent in every walk of life. For many of us it’s still something that happens to someone else, to ‘them’.

Get Over It!  will explore the everyday stigma and prejudice that ‘they’ encounter. We hope it’ll give people the voice and confidence to speak out about these issues and to talk about how they feel… disempowered, trapped, misunderstood or ignored.

We all need to talk about mental health more, have conversations, and be honest. Because there’s no ‘them’ and ‘us’. There’s just ‘us’. It’s time to get over it.




Mark Helyar is an author, musician and Co-Director of Theatre for Take Art, Somerset. The revised 2nd edition of Rising from the Dust ~ India’s Hidden Voices is now available in bookstores and online.

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