Mental Health and the Theater Arts
How being in a public performance can help your mental health
Sandy Brower, NYC Regional Leader, Field Organizer, NYAPRS
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On May 8, 1997 on the way from work I unfortunately fell down a flight of steps and never made callbacks for the show I eventually was supposed to be in. I had broken both my hands and had to have surgery on my right hand and wrist because it didn't heal right. Someone told me not to audition for the show. The day before surgery I decided to do the show anyway, but it was too late because the part was given to someone else. If I had to do it again, I would not have listened to that person though they meant well.
Because of my failure to make the show, I was stuck in the house with my totally abusive father who caused me to have my first psychotic breakdown, which caused me to have my first hospitalization of August that year. My father had not wanted to take me to physical therapy and had blamed me for the accident I had at work.
I had been diagnosed with different things, but mostly I am diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which, at that time was very difficult because I was in and out of the hospital along with having tried to commit suicide and having those awful thoughts. I also had thoughts about killing my parents, especially my father.
While in the psychiatric hospital, I had done improvisational theater for most of the time except when I had to be taken out because I had an episode in the middle of a workshop. Afterwards, I did the workshop again and performed off of the hospital grounds.
After I left the hospital, the performance group came to my first day program and I got to perform there too. Afterwards, I found another improv group that toured different plays and even got to narrate at a church. A different group came to my second day program. I have both groups on my theater resume.
A year after I moved to New York, I found out about a clubhouse which caters to people who have mental health issues called Community Access. I have been with Community Access since March 25, 2003 and sang in several talent shows and won 2nd prize in one along with winning 3rd prize in another one. I am also volunteering at a psychiatric hospital where I facilitate a group called Acting Out, which is an improv group too. I do that so that patients of psychiatry are not inhibited to do what they want to do after they leave the hospital.
On March 3rd of this year I tried out for Heights Players' production of Carousel and will be in the musical ensemble after not performing for almost 12 years!
Theater is great therapy for anyone with a mental health issue. It's helping me to deal with the death of my mom who died last year. As a matter of fact, I am dedicating the song from the show Never Walk Alone because I loved her so much.
You get to meet people of all walks of life and they don't treat you different just because you have a mental health issue. As a matter of fact, they are quite friendly. Also, I will be walking for mental health thanks to NAMI New York City Metro on May 10th starting at the South Street Seaport. You can come to and donate as little as a dollar because numbers of people is just as important as cash money. At the walk you will get to meet people from all walks of life and you do not have to be ashamed of having a mental illness because no one there will treat you differently.
My performance will be later that same day. I have a lot of my fellow mental health advocates along with staff from Community Access clubhouse coming to see me perform.
To see Sandy Brower perform, just call (718) 237-2752. Performance dates are May 2nd to May 8th . The address is 26 Willow Place in Brooklyn Heights.
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