Stand Up for Mental Health returns to Cap

A few years ago, I worked at a camp for disabled kids and adults. The camp hosted people with all ranges of disability, from low functioning autistics, to schizophrenics requiring total care and everything in between. Working closely with support workers and a medical team, I realized how society is struggling with the stigma of mental illness, as the authoritarian group home programs most of these people were living with were hopelessly antiquated and prohibitive, mostly focused on what people with disabilities could not do.

Now, years later, an upcoming event to be held on Wednesday, January 20 between 11:30 and 1:00 in the CSU lounge called Stand Up for Mental Health, is designed to showcase what folks with mental illness can do. In particular, they can make you laugh your ass off.

David Granirer is the man behind the green curtain in this case. The author of The Happy Neurotic: How Fear and Angst Can Lead to Happiness and Success, David is also a counselor, comedian and comedy instructor for 11 years at Langara. He is the driving force behind a wave of comedy troupes across the country that teaches how humour can be a great healer, for the audience as well as the performer, aiming to break down stigmas and stereotypes by the punchline. 

"We're actually expanding more and more. We're just starting up a group in Victoria and Montreal   . . . we have a group in Halifax, Ottawa, Guelph . . . we just keep on expanding."

David became inspired by the transformative power of comedy, as he noticed that his comedy class was a reliable producer of life-changing experiences for those brave enough to stand up. As he also worked as a counselor, "working with people with mental illness seemed a natural place to start."

His own mental illness helped to solidify his belief in the possibilities. He began experiencing debilitating depression in his late teens but wasn't diagnosed himself until his thirties. "Mostly it was just having periods when, for no reason, at all, I would feel horrible ... I thought it was normal."

He managed to transform his own limitation into a great possibility, by making his own depression a fuel source for his comedy. Now, years later, he sees this process as being "the major way people are finding an outlet to tell the truth about what is going on with them and a way of educating people that's really different and empowering." He says that comedy "erases the feelings of shame and inadequacy" that comes along with mental illness. 

"Doing stand-up comedy is cool, and making people laugh is a great thing to do ... people pay attention when you can make them laugh. In general, no one really want to hear about mental illness, but this way, people become curious about it."

David has all but quit his day job for comedy at this point, and currently only retains a couple of counseling clients as his travel schedule does not permit it. Despite the numerous articles that have been written across North America and the relative success of his book, he downplays his own success in favour of applauding his brave student comics. Still, he was featured in the CBC documentary Cracking Up, and his current tour will take him all across the continent this year.

In regards to the show that will land at Cap, David explains that some will "be doing storytelling, some will do one-liners, some are very dead-pan ... other are very animated and expressive." There will be something for every taste, coming from a range of comics with varying degrees of mental disability, from depression to schizophrenia. All are medicated, and all use their own predicament to break up the crowd.

Still, David mentions that comedy, to be done well, still takes a certain personality type for it to be funny. "Class clowns, people who kept shooting off their mouths and getting in trouble for it, people who are always saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, and also people who really like attention.
Whether or not they know it, they like having people pay attention to them and comedy is a great way to fulfill that need."

"What my course proves is that there is really no limit to what can be accomplished, even by those with mental illness. When you give people something that is meaningful to them they will do almost anything to make that happen. One of the problems with our mental health system is that it doesn't offer people enough things that they really want to do to get them motivated and moving."

The Capilano show will be "members of the 2009 class who just graduated".
The roster will feature David Slaughter, Adel Fitzpatrick, Randy Goodchild, Filomena Black, and Mike Coss. Stand Up For Mental Health is brought to Cap by the Students with Disabilities committee. 

For more information on
the organization, see The show will take place in the
CSU lounge, Wednesday, January 20, from 11:30 - 1:00PM.

//Kevin Murray


Enjoy it? Share this on Facebook


© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: