Theatre Company gives a voice to mental health

March 21, 2017

Theatre Company gives a voice to mental health

Drama school friends are using their talents to encourage conversations about mental health. Photo: Supplied/RECollective Theatre Company

New Zealand’s high suicide rates have motivated three Kiwi actresses to speak up about mental health on stage.

TV One’s 800 Words star Cian Elyse White, together with Romy Hooper and Esmée Myers launched the RECollective Theatre Company last year. It had its origins in the personal tragedies their profession had faced.

Their “theatre of courage” will take yearly shows to communities around New Zealand, exploring causes of mental distress and letting people know they’re not alone when times get tough.

“New Zealand’s mental health system is in crisis,” said Ms White.

“People are not talking about what they’re going through. They hold it in, and secrets make you sick.”

Our country’s suicide toll is the worst it’s been since the Coroner's Office began keeping records in 2008. In 2016, 579 Kiwis took their own lives, compared to 564 the previous year.

The shows will shed light on topics we have trouble talking about, said Ms Hooper.

“People invest in stories that we tell, so we wanted to invest wisely,” said Ms White.

Their first show, deVine, which centered on a family dealing with mental health issues – proved a great success when it premiered at Auckland’s Basement Theatre in February. It then toured Northland.

“The assumption that attending an event about 'mental health' is going to be a heavy, depressing experience needs to change,” said Ms Hooper.

Their next tour will bring to life the stories of mental distress from various community members they will interview.

“This will theme a common thread and have the community look back and go, ‘even though we are different we can all walk with the same hurt’,” said Ms White.

But it’s only a small part to play.

Speaking up about mental health needs to be happening, more importantly off-stage, said Ms Hooper.

“We need to be investing money into educating New Zealanders on how to talk about, manage, and hold loved ones when it comes to depression and mental distress,” said Ms White.

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