a box printed with happy emoticons
a box printed with happy emoticons

This weekend I attended a very special event in Vancouver, a graduation performance put on by Stand Up For Mental Health.  And yes, I laughed at mental illness all evening long… Or, to quote one of the graduates, I “came to laugh at people with mental illness.”

So, why am I shamelessly confessing this in a public forum? Because it was fun! I spent an entire evening, with a room full of other people: smirking, grinning, chuckling, guffawing, and even ROFL (roll-on-the-floor-laughing), and I want to share my experience with you, so that you too can feel the joy and happiness I felt last night.

Stand Up For Mental Health is a program run by SMH Society, a non-profit agency that takes a creative and courageous approach to ending stigma around mental health by training individuals with mental illness and mental health challenges to turn their pain into a stand-up-comedy routine.  And they are funny!  David Granirer, the founder of the program, says:

“We believe that one of the best ways to deal with painful situations is to find the humor in them. That’s why we teach people with mental health issues to do stand-up comedy.”

Over a period of months, Granirer teaches students the skills needed to develop and perform a routine that is based on their life experience. He then organizes forums for them to perform.

Performing stand up may not be the answer for everyone who experiences mental health challenges; but watching it can be transforming. It’s an unconventional and surprising way to normalize the experience that people have with mental illness – whether they have it themselves, or they know and interact with others who do. What it does is offer a new, lighter approach to the conversation around mental health.

If you find that you’re having some issues with conversations around mental health in the office, or have identified mental health literacy improvement as a goal, then I would highly recommend you bring this group into your workplace and allow them to lighten up the conversation. Let them encourage your employees who live with mental illness, or have someone close to them who does to know they are not alone, and improve the dialogue around mental health. The presentation can help reduce stigma in your workplace and introduce a brand new perspective.

If you’re interested in more information, check out their website.

Get a jump start on your workplace health initiatives today!

Read How to Recognize Mental Illness in Your Workplace

Diana Vissers is the Founder and Director of Corporate Services at Work to Wellness Rehabilitation Inc. – a Canadian company providing expert disability management services to Canadian customers. She is in the business of making your place of business healthy, safe and productive. Follow her on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter for the latest news and updates on health, wellness and integrated disability management.