Category: #TimeToTalk


There was a fantastic turn-out at PSS’s “Sticks ‘n’ Stones” show at Siren Liverpool on Thursday evening. As promised, there was a nice selection of drama, poetry and music, as well as opportunities to engage in conversation about mental health.

Yesterday – Friday – I felt a great feeling of anti-climax, which brought back memories of a past that barely feels like my own. I remember working for shows – whether they were plays, dance, installations or concerts. The show takes over your life from the moment of conception to the end of the final rehearsal; then it is shared – and then it is done. I am pretty sure that I am not the only person involved in the PSS evening that felt the same anti-climax the day after. All I can say is “Well done to all of you! You did good!”

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My prepared part for the show is now available and public on YouTube under: PSS Sticks and Stones: A Trick of the Eye – A Trick of the Mind. There is also a small selection of photos on my ‘Beyond the lens’ page at Tumblr. There is a bigger selection of photos from the evening in a (public) Facebook Photo Album under ‘PSS – ‘Sticks ‘n’ Stones’. (Most of my photo albums are publicly accessible if you would like to browse further).

During the course of the evening, during which various ‘games’ and ‘teasers’ were given out, I was given a card that read ‘Have you ever laughed or joked about a mental illness’. The other people at the table I was sitting at seemed somewhat shocked when I said “Yes I have – my own!”

I have never lost my sense of humour during the years of struggle. Sure, it changed – it became rather more cynical and biting when I was at my worst, although my sense of humour has always been somewhat dry and cynical, I think. The ability to find something to laugh at even in my most dismal times has carried me through. I realize of course that not everyone has the same strategies, but to me laughter – and the digs at myself, as well as the distortion of my photos during the darkest times have been therapeutic. And without them I would have probably been self-destructive in a much more literal way.

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So what’s next?

I am at early stage discussions about a couple more project ideas that may hopefully come to fruition within the next few months. Nothing is fixed yet, so I don’t want to tempt fate by talking too much about them, but hopefully I will have something to report very soon.

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We have come a long way in reducing the stigma attached to mental illness, but as yet it is still just a reduction – not a removal.

Tomorrow, ‘Time to Talk Day’, is all about working to further reduce that stigma and the discrimination that goes with it. Don’t be surprised if someone comes up to you tomorrow and asks your consent to take your photo and for you to make a comment about your feelings about mental health issues. The statistics about mental illness speak volumes. According to those statistics, one in four people will experience some mental health issue in their life – it is slightly higher in Liverpool. Yet the statistics don’t take into account the number of people that are in denial.

Many people say “I’ve never had, nor will I ever have, a mental health issue.” Yet if you were to go through life without ever being stressed because of bereavement, divorce, job loss, threat of job loss, abuse (mental or physical), you would either be very blessed, or – more likely – so emotionally repressed that you could expect at some time to suffer a breakdown of some kind.

From personal experience I can say that there is a great deal of relief in not only admitting and facing up to the fact that you have a mental health issue, but in being among people who do the same. Having a condition like depression or anxiety is isolating enough to start with. When someone is denying that they have that condition, it becomes even more isolating. Being with people who can say “Well actually, you’re not alone in this – I have had the same issue.” is one of the greatest steps towards re-balancing that I took in my battle with depression.

Denial and the need to talk is a key factor in the performance organized by PSS at the Siren Café in St Jame’s Street, Liverpool tomorrow. 

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My part in the event is a slideshow representing how our self-image can be distorted by mental illness:

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