This is a podcast of ‘Inspired’, a debate on mental health and creativity that Pegasus hosted last week. Members of all three Create For Change groups took part in it with roles on the panel alongside writers, artists and representatives of mental health charities.
We’re pleased to announce that the performance of The Listeners / Stuck on Friday 30th of March will be signed. If you’d like any more information on the signed performance of our piece or of any other of Pegasus’ productions, please visit www.pegasustheatre.org.uk and contact us directly for more information.
Helen has been volunteering for the Samaritans for 19 years. This is an extract from an interview with her where she explains why she continues to be a part of the organisation.
I find it very rewarding, and I also find it strangely un-stressful just to listen to people. Mostly in life, when your friends tell you things, you feel responsible for them, but this has taught me not to feel so responsible for people, because we believe that the responsibility for choices lies with the caller. So once I’d been trained to understand that it wasn’t for me to make decisions for the caller or guide them, but simply to be there for them and listen to them and allow them to feel whatever it was they were feeling, and to completely accept that, it was quite a liberating thing, and it’s very useful in other areas of life.
There’s also a great sense of bonding with people you’re doing the work with. I said that it was relaxing, but I suppose that’s not quite what I meant – it’s quite stressful sometimes, because of the things that you hear, but the level of support here is very high, and so you’re never on your own. It’s quite a bonding thing, particularly as the volunteers are of all ages, and you meet people here through volunteering that you’d never meet through any other walk of life. And I find that fun, actually, as well.
This is an extract from an interview with the writer of The Listeners, Mojisola Adebayo, discussing where the idea for the show came from, and how she approached turning ideas about listening into a performance for young people.
So what was the starting point for the show when you joined the project?
It was quite open - the impulse was to make something around young people and mental health, and possibly talk about suicide. But obviously there were big questions about the ethics of doing that, and about how deep to go. We were quite tentative about what the piece would look like, and how to make it accessible, fun, and also sustainable over a long rehearsal period.
The idea of focusing on listening came about through a day long conversation between Yasmin, myself and Helen from the Samaritans, where Helen really crystallised what the Samaritans do, which is listening. I’d known a little about the Samaritans, but I didn’t realise that they don’t give advice directly, or try to stop people committing suicide by saying ‘don’t do that, there’s another way’, or ‘your family will be upset’ and any of those other clichés that I had in my head about how they might counsel somebody. But really, they see their role as to just listen, and to enable people to talk about some of the most taboo subjects, like wanting to commit suicide.
They really believe in the power of listening: they really believe that if somebody is on the brink of hurting themselves or killing themselves, that listening to them is a way of bringing that person to another place, without imposing advice or anything trite: just listening.
So I spent most of that day with the three of us listening to Helen and Yasmin, and thinking about that, and then I started thinking about – knowing this would be a cast of young people – how has listening changed? Is listening any different for young people at the moment? And how might technology have changed the ways we all listen and communicate?
And I was wary about getting on a bandwagon: you know, ‘Facebook is bad’, ‘Texting is terrible’, ‘We should all talk to each other’ – but it’s not so much that, I was just really curious about how all of this new technology might have changed how we communicate on a personal level. And how has that particularly changed for young people. What kind of listening do they do? How do they listen through text messages? How do you listen through Facebook? Through a tweet? Is it listening, and have we forfeited or lost that skill?
Magz is shown in the play to have different sides to his/her character: at some points aggressive and insensitive, others totally absorbed by computers and television and at others lonely and desperate. The fact that so many different people play the part exaggerates all these differences. There are also different scenes which definitely side towards a more masculine/feminine Magz, and having both genders playing the role help the scenes flow in a more natural and believable manor for the audience.
In certain scenes, when one or more Magz begins to play another role, such as the listener or Mum, it can give the impression that Magz is arguing with another side of himself/herself, totally lost and not knowing what to do.
This is a link to the BBC’s pioneering Stress Test, which in just a few minutes can assess how stressed you are, and gives you some tips to help you get better.
Almost everyone suffers from some form of stress, so it’s not often seen as a serious issue - but stress can come from all parts of our lives, and remains a major cause of many mental health problems, especially among young people.
The results of this test are used - anonymously - to give scientists a clearer picture of how people experience stress, and how to manage it better. So go on - take a few minutes of your time, and see if you can understand your own stress levels a little better.
Time to Change is England’s biggest ever attempt to end the stigma and discrimination that faces people with mental health problems.
It is a campaign to change attitudes, and behaviour too. One in four of us will experience a mental health problem in our lifetime – and if we do, we are highly likely to face stigma and discrimination
“I’m sure after Facebook it will be the little cameras that we have implanted into the palms of our hands, and we’ll be debating whether we should get them, and then we’ll all get them.”—Jesse Eisenberg, who played Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook in The Social Network
I feel sorry for Magz, as it seems s/he is having a hard time, the father is clearly depressed about the breakup and so washes away his tears by drinking, and the mother appears both desperate for Magz’s return to the real world and defeated by the breakup.
Music and Theatre can be a wonderful combination. In The Listeners, we’re combining live singing and movement in order to characterise and express the troubles of Magz, something that’s far more achievable through choruses and expressive singing than straight acting alone. Of course, it helps when you’ve got great songs like ‘Message in a Bottle’ or ‘Songbird’ to showcase!
“During depression the world disappears. Language itself. One has nothing to say. Nothing. No small talk, no anecdotes. Nothing can be risked on the board of talk. Because the inner voice is so urgent in its own discourse: How shall I live? How shall I manage the future? Why should I go on?”—Kate Millett
The Listeners imagines a future where technology is far more advanced than today, but where people and computers still struggle to communicate. But today, many schools’ ICT lessons are being criticised for not teaching young people enough about technology or what it can do - and are often trying to teach simple tasks that pupils have often learnt on their own.
This article collects some young people’s thoughts about their lessons. If learning how to use technology is so difficult today, can our imagined future really be that far away?