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The stigma surrounding mental health problems continues to be debilitating and destructive. This presentation (performance) aims to challenge negative and stereotypical attitudes through the narrative of the two presenters: one the cartoonist who authored Depresso and the other a mental health academic.
There are few books about mental health written in the cartoon genre; Depresso is one of them. The protagonist, Tom Freeman has what might be described as “a breakdown” and the book is his recovery journey, at times bleak and painful but also funny. On one level, the story can be read as a hilarious true-life graphic novel, on another the book normalises what it means to experience mental distress. It is here that the work challenges the stigma associated with mental health problems. The story not only recounts Tom’s journey and its impact on friends and family, but it is also a critique of the psychiatric system; a commentary on the side- effects of medication, the impact of stigma, and what it means to wrestle psychologically. Whilst the audience may be creatively taken to the pits of despair and shown the funny side, the ultimate message of the story is one of hope.
Brick (aka John Stuart Clark) has been a political cartoonist since the mid-1970s. His earliest work appeared in publications like International Times, Big Flame, Peace News and Time Out. He turned professional when Margaret Thatcher ascended the throne, but his views never sat easily with the mainstream British press. Success came from abroad, with regular slots in European, Australian and African papers, and he was the first British cartoonist to be published by Al Jazeera. Specialising in Third World issues, much of his work was for development agencies and educational publishing. He has had five books published, two of them adventure travelogues, and a radio play broadcast. In 2005-06 he experienced a couple of breakdowns that informed his graphic novel ‘Depresso’, and now works with other service users teaching mental health student nurses. His current project is a graphic investigation into the fraud known as ‘Leonardo’s Bicycle’.
Theo Stickley is Associate Professor of Mental Health at the University of Nottingham. Having firstly trained as a nurse and therapist, over the last ten years he has concentrated on developing and researching arts and mental health practice. He is also a non-executive director for City Arts (Nottingham) Ltd and leads on the innovative Art in Mind programme of work, promoting mental health through community arts. Theo is a member of the Nottingham Society of Artists and attends evening workshops every week. He is an international speaker and is known widely for his work on narrative research in the arts and mental health. He is a keen gardener and takes pride in the quality of the compost he produces!