City health professionals prescribe laughter for January blues

A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad), Silent Uproar theatre company

Laughter really can be the best medicine according to NHS Hull Clinical Commissioning Group and Mind Hull and East Yorkshire, who are backing an award-winning musical comedy that throws glitter at depression.

On Blue Monday (21 January) – reported to be the most miserable day of the year – health professionals are encouraging people to use humour to combat the grim aftermath of Christmas, while reminding people that depression can strike at any time of the year.

While our default position when we’re feeling down may be to hibernate, doing the opposite – even if we don’t feel like it – is what will get us out of our misery rut. According to experts, laughter soothes tension, music and mood are inherently linked and spending time with friends makes you feel good.

One such remedy for the back-to-work blues is A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad) by Silent Uproar, which is coming to Hull as part of the Back to Ours festival in February half term.  

You can catch the show at Thornton Village Hall on Thursday 21 February and Wilberforce Sixth Form College on Saturday 23 February.

The show, which was shortlisted for the Mental Health Foundation’s first ever Mental Health Fringe Award at Edinburgh Fringe 2017, is influenced by the company’s personal experiences and has been informed by people living with mental health problems and medical professionals.

The team spent a year researching for the show, interviewing 50 people living with depression, speaking to psychiatrists, the NHS, mental health nurses, mental health charity Mind and psychologists. The cast and crew have also had mental health awareness training from Hull and East Yorkshire Mind, organised by NHS Hull Clinical Commissioning Group.

In addition to the cast and crew being able to talk to people affected by any of the issues in the show, the company is also arranging for mental healthcare volunteers to be on hand after performances to signpost them to help available.

Dan Roper, Chair of NHS Hull Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Christmas and New Year can be joyous times for celebration and getting together with friends and family. We know however that they can be times of heightened loneliness and isolation for those not fortunate enough to have the company of loved ones. It can also be a time for reflection on what might not be going too well in our lives The impact on mental well-being going into January can be profound so the return of A Super Happy Story with its positive messages is very timely.”   

Scarlett Scrivener from Hull and East Yorkshire Mind added: “There is no credible evidence to suggest that one day in particular can increase the risk of people feeling depressed. There are of course certain things that may make people feel down at this time of year, such as post-Christmas financial strains, broken New Year’s resolutions, bad weather and short daylight hours. However, depression is not just a one day event. We want to remind people that depression can happen at any time and we are available to help people throughout the year.”

She added: “One in four people have problems with their mental health every year, but too often people are afraid to talk about it. Having these all important conversations about mental health can make a big difference too many people. The more we talk, the more lives we can change.”

Written by Olivier award winner Jon Brittain (Rotterdam, Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho) with music by Matthew Floyd Jones (Frisky and Mannish), the show is a joyful, buoyant, gleeful, slightly silly, sugar coated, unrelenting and completely super happy show. Except for all the bits about depression.

Alex Mitchell, Artistic Director of Silent Uproar, said: “We wanted to create something that challenged the notion that depression is just being a bit sad. We wanted to create a fun show for people who are living with it, but also for their mate that doesn’t really believe that depression is a thing.”

Andrew Eaton-Lewis, arts lead for the Mental Health Foundation, added: “The arts are an incredibly powerful way to talk about mental health – to share experiences, tell stories, reduce stigma, and change minds. If you can turn a set of challenging and often distressing symptoms into a relatable human story, you can have a huge impact, personally, culturally and sometimes politically.”

The comedic and production style of the show, which won the Fringe First Award and Best Musical Award at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe, draws from sources as diverse as Scott Pilgrim vs The World, Pixar’s Inside Out, Juno, and musicals like Cabaret and Chicago. 

Silent Uproar is a Hull-based new writing company, commissioning writers to create playful and provocative work to help make the world a little less sh*t.

Co-produced by Hull UK City of Culture 2017, the tour has been made possible with the support of Arts Council England, house touring network, Hull City Council, New Diorama Theatre, Hull NHS Clinical Commissioning Group and Hull Truck Theatre.

Tickets will be available from Saturday (26 January), as well as in person with cash from a number of community venues specified on the website and in festival newsletters. 

Watch the trailer here 

[Alix Johnson – The Comms Collective]