Marion Crouse was very kind to give her reflections on the new “Laugh It Off” education program. This will be part of a much larger, wider spread article later this year (stay tuned!), and her article is so superb I wanted to get it out for others to read right now. Enjoy!
“Laugh It Off”
May 31, 2016 Event
For the first “Laugh It Off” event, which had been scheduled for the last day in the Mental Health Month of May 2016, I was hoping to get a few laughs for my jokes. I knew that there would be questions after the three of us (Steve Bringe, Dennis Gray, and myself Marion Crouse) gave our stand-up comedy sets, and so I was also hoping that I would be able to answer a question or two intelligently. I had figured that we three would give a humorous reprieve from the day-to-day activities at Turquoise Lodge Hospital in Albuquerque, NM. I was glad and honored that I had been invited to be part of that experience.
So, I got a few laughs for my jokes about the juxtaposition of having Schizophrenia and being able to see ghosts. Steve and Dennis got some laughs for their jokes, too. I had a good time, and I got the sense that while I wasn’t cracking everybody up, they had a good time too nevertheless. And then, after our sets, we got some great questions from the audience, both inpatients and hospital staff. I left the building feeling like I had presented myself as someone who, along with having a handle on her own mental illness and not in spite of having Schizophrenia, is still able to use her mind.
Then, a couple of days later, Steve let me know that not only had everyone enjoyed our “Laugh It Off” event, but after we left that day, the effects of looking back on our own life events in a humorous light were such that the mood on the unit had lightened up too. The people who were getting help at Turquoise Lodge Hospital were more talkative with each other after we had left. That made me very happy, because I know that when folks communicate with one another, we are better able to find common ground and get along with one another. To be able to discuss our illnesses and other problems, and yes our good times too, is to have camaraderie with one another and to be at peace within ourselves. When I first got sick with Paranoid Schizophrenia in 1997, and especially when I first accepted that I have that illness in November of that year, I was in no mood to crack jokes about cracking up. I was totally confused about who to be, as if I had to be somebody new to myself because I had contracted a permanent illness that was new to myself. Well, my fingerprints are still the same, so I am still me.
Keeping quiet, not talking about stuff, makes Mental Illness seem like a dark secret. Comedy about Mental Illness, without self-deprecation, is a great way to open the floor to discussion and to help put an end to stigma. Having serious question/answer time after the comedy show is a well-rounded way for us folks with diagnoses to let everybody (peers or not) know that our minds are still good, we are still ourselves, and you can’t be scared of us if you are cracking up too.