Qualified counsellor and comedienne Sheila McMahon wants to reduce the social stigma that surrounds mental health issues, after suffering with it personally for many years.
She’s planning to undertake a tandem hang-glide, despite being terrified of heights, to raise money for a project that could help thousands of people in the UK.
Sheila, who performed her new sell-out show ‘Sheila’s M.H.S – Mental Health Show’ at the Lichfield Garrick on 8th April, and who runs a free monthly mental health support group at the Garrick on the last Wednesday (7-9pm) of each month, wants to raise money to fund the production of a series of online mental health shows.
Statistics suggest that one in four people in the UK suffer from depression or a similar mental health issue, and the shows would provide useful information to help people suffering from depression and other mental health issues including addictions, OCD, suicide, anxiety and eating disorders.
The shows will be filmed in the Midlands, and Sheila already has a number of interesting guests lined up. Sheila wants her shows to give people the confidence to start talking openly about mental health, by interviewing experts and inviting viewers to submit questions that she can ask the show’s guests, in order to educate people and help them understand more about the condition.
Sheila understands mental health personally, having suffered with depression so severe that she wanted to commit suicide when she was only seven years old.
She’s realised that the skills gained from being a qualified counsellor and professional comedienne and entertainer put her in an excellent position to help educate people about mental health in a humorous way, and she’s been busy performing her stage show ‘Sheila’s M.H.S - Mental Health Show’ to sell-out audiences across Midlands theatres.
There wasn’t a spare seat in the house for either of her previous three shows at the Lichfield Garrick or her show at The Palace Theatre in Redditch. At the shows, Sheila talks about mental health in her own special way, with comedy material that mixes humour with her vast experience and knowledge of the issues of mental health. Sheila helps the audience learn whilst laughing, living up to her catchphrase that ‘life is too serious to be taken seriously…..besides no one gets out alive anyway!’
Sheila has been researching topics for the programmes by asking her show audiences for their suggestions, and she’s also worked hard to develop links with many regional and national mental health organisations.
In the shows, she plans to share coping mechanisms that people can use to survive everyday life, as well as tell the audience about organisations and helplines that can offer support.
She also plans to include some real life stories that will provide messages of hope and encouragement, as well as an understanding how varying backgrounds, cultural differences, attitudes and generational behaviour can affect mental health.
Sheila says: “Unfortunately, in today’s society, mental health is still a taboo subject, which doesn’t help the people who suffer with it. When we brush mental health issues under the carpet it doesn’t make them go away, it just makes the fear stronger. Talking about the issues and sharing stories of how people have helped themselves and others can help break the feeling of isolation that many people experience, and help put people in a position of understanding, personal power and choice. That’s why educating people about mental health is so important, and I’m hoping that the online shows can help off-load many of the negative elements so we can start laughing our way to better mental well-being!”
Sheila’s also added a comedy element to her fundraising challenge, as she’ll be doing the hang-glide as her comedy character, nun Sister Mary. Dressed in her black and white robes, Sheila will be taking Sister Mary closer to God in the safe hands of Sheila’s older brother Geoffrey, who has actually held the record for the longest hang-gliding flight in Ireland (80 miles) for the last 10 years.
Sheila continues: “There are already quite a few TV programmes about physical health issues, but I don’t think there are enough shows yet about mental health – I’ve certainly not seen anything similar to what I’d like to present. I want these on-line mental health shows to cover issues that many people want or need to talk about, but aren’t normally able to discuss in general conversation. I believe the shows will help get these issues out in the open, so we can talk about the symptoms, discuss causes and highlight different ways to cope, so the people suffering with these health problems don’t feel so alone in their suffering. I believe everybody, given the right knowledge, support and environment, can become victorious in their own life – and I want to use my counselling and comedy skills to make that a possible reality for everyone. “
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