Laughter: Medicine For Us All
A well-known Irish proverb shares, “A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything.” Most of us agree that laughter is good for our health. Physically, it helps us relax, makes us feel good with the release of endorphins, and increases blood flow, which is good for our heart. Emotionally, laughter helps inspire us, lifts our spirits, grounds us, and most importantly, connects us to others.
On October 8th, six individuals from the Fort McMurray area braved the stage to a sold out audience sharing their gift of humour. Working with David Granirer, counsellor, stand-up comic, mental health keynote speaker, and author of The Happy Neurotic, How Fear and Angst Can Lead to Happiness and Success, these locals developed and perfected stand-up comedy routines that helped shed some light on the many faces of mental illness, while offering the packed theatre a night of hilarious laughter. Local musicians Nathanael Laws and Dave Martin were happy to be included in Stand Up for Mental Health, providing music for the event. They shared that “Challenging misconceptions about mental illness is important to both of us. Individuals are best served in our community when all members are seen, heard, and invited to contribute.”
Host agency, Some Other Solutions (SOS), is a local social profit whose mission aims to empower individuals to meet life challenges and works to end stigma associated with mental health issues. Most of us can relate to feeling stressed, burdened, or overwhelmed at some point in our lives. Balancing work, family, relationships, sleep and diet can be a daily struggle. When considering mental health issues, however, there sadly remains some hesitation.
For 1 in 5 Canadians, well understood feelings of sadness, worry, and fear, develop into something more and the struggles intensify. For those then diagnosed with depression, anxiety, or other disorders, the fear of being judged or misunderstood can be as challenging to deal with as the symptoms related to their illness. As SOS’s Support and Wellness Counsellor, I belive that managing mental health can be compared to a river dam, which needs to stay intact to ensure the river doesn’t overflow. “Most of the time, we can manage challenges presented to us, and we balance these challenges with activities and relationships that promote wellness. We visit with a friend or go for a walk to clear our heads, or shake off a bad day. Sometimes though, we face too many challenges at once and lose balance; the dam breaks. Consider, for example, the impact of the slow economy in recent months, dropping temperatures, and holiday stresses. Most of us are more vulnerable during times like this, and it’s important to reach out for support. Laughter is a great tool and it’s available anytime; free of charge. Who doesn’t like a great deal! For those wondering about more structured support, the 24 hour SOS crisis line (780-743-HELP) and 211 Alberta are also available.
The Stand Up for Mental Health program and show provides audience members with an opportunity to better understand the unique experience of someone with a mental illness, and also provides opportunity to connect. Comedian Angela Betts cautioned to “never pee in a dream”, sharing some wild side affects of her prescribed medication. Shauna MacKinnon, who battled depression in earlier years, shared a new struggle “The average age in Fort McMurray is 32, so that makes dating in your 50s a lot harder. It leaves me only two options. I can be a cougar, or I can play shuffleboard every Tuesday at the Golden Years Society. And some of those 85 year olds are really romantic. They put their dentures in before they kiss you goodnight.” Both ladies connected with the audience, evident by roaring laughter and applause. Teighan Gajek-Leonard shared an added benefit: “The program helps to build self-confidence and connection with others.” Perhaps audience members could relate to the unique FMM dating scene, or the dreamy pee experience. Either way, laughter brought the comedians and audience together.
Second time event sponsor 100.5 CRUZ FM shared, “We recognize and understand the importance of mental health, and support the work of Some Other Solutions and partner agencies in our community. Our staff thoroughly enjoyed the evening and we all look forward to building another successful event next year”. Some Other Solutions is proud to have showcased local talent while breaking down barriers related to mental illness. SOS is currently seeking sponsors for the 2016 event, and will be recruiting fresh faces in late summer. Please pencil in October 6th, 2016 and contact Janene Hickman at Some Other Solutions for information (and some giggles).