I AM HERE; working with adults with mental health issues

Yesterday I was invited to the Therapy Centre at Park House, the mental health unit of North Manchester General, to see a play performed by out patients who attend the Harpurhey Day Centre. It was called ‘I’m Over Here’ and expressed the alienation that the seven actors had experienced in their lives and which had damaged their mental health. 

Stage fright is a common occurrence amongst professionals, let alone amateurs, and so we cannot imagine what vulnerable people with mental health problems went through to stage this performance. All right, none of them would be candidates for RADA, but that’s not the point. They stood up and made their statement in front of around a hundred people and when one forgot her words you could sense the whole audience to a person willing her on.

But there was a lot more to it than just a thirty minute performance. Being able to express their feelings to each other before and during rehearsals was therapeutic in itself and they had been helped on by the artist, other health professionals in Park House, and some of the in patients. The in patients had also benefited from helping to design and build the set. I should say now that ‘Set’ is really too simple a word. 

The whole therapy centre had been converted into a theatre by designs and words on the walls and the floor. Hours of work had gone into making this happen and I’m sure that all of us who were there not only appreciated the experience but were quite humbled by it. Oh, and afterwards we were treated to a magnificent healthy buffet prepared and served by Renaissance CafĂ©, another therapeutic unit for people with mental health problems. In fact it was so good I didn’t need a Town Hall tea before Council: another bonus.

Councillor Robin Parker

Working through a drama, visual art and film making process, a group of Manchester residents suffering with enduring mental health issues explored what it means to them to be part of the big city.
How they feel about amenities and provision and how they think they are seen in a wider context of society.
We hoped to challenge problems they face in the city centre, transport, access and citizenship issues.