World Mental Health Day….Saturday 10th October 2020

It’s important in this quite extraordinary year, to talk about mental health and to help each other. I’ve asked two of my friends, Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, to speak to the nation regarding this great event.

Remember to make that first step and talk to someone, be it a friend, family member or a professional. No one should suffer in silence.

Yours in comedy and mental health,

Ian L. Fullbrook

Time to speak up….

Everyone has a story. Everyone should be heard. Let’s talk about mental health on World Mental Health Day 2019. Wherever you are, let’s help each other.

A.S.D Brooks

Scaling the heights……

Here’s where I was today:-

The Orbit structure at London’s Olympic Park. How did I end up here? Because a staff member at SANE, the UK mental health charity I volunteer for, asked me to support her in cheering on some employees from UK company Roche, who are one of SANE’s biggest fundraisers.

The employees did some abseiling from the very top of the structure, which is about 80-100 feet above ground. There were some very nervous people but they all said that they enjoyed the experience.

Me? Foolishly, I decided to take the lift up to the very top to watch the abseiling in action. One thing I didn’t consider – the speed of the lift. It zooms to the top in 34 seconds and it felt like a very long 34 seconds. I had a bit of a panic as the climb is very steep and the lift speed caught me very unawares. So I took the lift straight back down again! If I can’t even manage a lift, then there’s little chance of me abseiling. I’m ok with heights most of the time, except here!

Wonderful day. The weather was excellent and the company great. You would have to pay me a lot of money to do what the Roche employees did but it was all for a great cause, raising money for mental health awareness. September is rivalling March as one of my favourite months. And that was the first time I visited the Olympic Park. Next summer I shall pay a visit, because there’s plenty of green space, a river and opportunities for a walk and fresh air. And it’s only 8 miles from my area.

It’s been a good week so far. More soon….

A.S.D Brooks

A 25 second video….to this!

There’s little old me, after speaking at a mental health event in South London this morning. The lovely lady pictured, Siobhan, hosted and organised the event that brought together some local people to discuss how we perceive people with mental illness.

And this all started with a 25 second video on Instagram around September last year, and here I am invited to speak at some mental health events. Considering that I used to run away from anything to do with public speaking, this is quite a transformation. Knowledge is power. It’s ok to stand there and talk, but better if you have knowledge of your subject. And people like honesty and realism.

There were two other powerful speakers who shared their experiences and a lot of what they said resonated with me. We all did a clever activity where we were given an envelope with a person’s face on it. We were asked how old they might be, what job they do and what kind of mental health struggles they may endure. Then we opened each envelope and read a sentence describing their struggles. Very ingenious idea that got everyone talking and I explained about the stock phrases that people use. Say a person is struggling with mental illness but smiles. A person that doesn’t know might say “He/she is happy. He/she looks normal!”. What I’m saying is that mental illness is invisible, unlike a broken arm.

Then it was me. I had a script to follow, because as the years advance, my memory isn’t what it was! But I hope it was well received and I networked with some other members of the audience and I hope to do more of this, at a later date.

I have to admit that I wasn’t feeling particularly enthusiastic about going. I felt weighed down with all the stuff that is going on and the pressure to perform. But I got up there and dismissed those anxieties and spoke. It gave me a little bit of a lift. Back home now, and the anxieties return of course.

It was a superbly organised event and Siobhan seems a driven and likeable individual who wants to make sure others have a good and fulfilling life. It was her first event organising and though she was worried and a little nervous, it went off smoothly and I hope this is the start of a career of running such events in the future.

Nice day. They’ve been few and far between this year, but when they do come along, they’re worth holding onto. So as I said to begin with, a short video and here we are. You never know what is around that corner, and that is the beauty of life.

A.S.D Brooks

Warm and happy thoughts…

It’s been a horrible day weather wise here in London this day. Strong wind, grey skies, lashing rain and icily cold to boot. Very unpleasant. But that’s where duvets come in handy on a day like this!

Last night was spent in the company of two of our Peer Support attendees. We went to watch that play that I’ve seen already this year, called WEIRD, about one woman’s battle with OCD. We went to the Soho Theatre in London on a busy Friday night in amongst the Christmas shoppers.

I had to take my two colleagues along. And boy did they enjoy it. There was a terrific atmosphere in the room, which housed 70/80 people at a rough guesstimate. Amy Doyle, the fabulous actress that plays all the parts, launched into a tour de force that drew widespread admiration from all in the room.

The audience laughed at the funny bits. They sat in respectful silence at the sad moments. And when it was all over, the room rose as one to applaud Amy. She seemed somewhat taken aback by the reaction, but as I’ve alluded to before, this is a great production. And the ovation was richly deserved.

And some of the applause should be reserved for this fine lady:-

The lady in question is Manchester born writer Lucy Burke, (pictured with me, above) whose battles with OCD are brilliantly displayed via the stirring Amy Doyle. It’s an earthy, vibrant production with a bittersweet, human touch. Next year, WEIRD may tour some parts of the UK. If you see it advertised, please go and see it. It’s one of my standout memories of the year.

My two colleagues loved the whole performance. I shall see it again, and I shall bring along more of my colleagues to enjoy the beauty of one of the best things I’ve seen in recent years. No praise can be too high for this.

A wonderful way to end the week.

WEIRD, A Play about OCD. Written by Lucy Burke. Directed by Peter Taylor. Performed by Amy Doyle.

A.S.D Brooks

How’s my hair looking?

To complete what has been a very good and rewarding day, I’ve been attending a mental health meeting in London. And yours truly had to do a piece to camera. That was in aid of doing a short film to tell the world at large what improves our well being, and what things we like doing.

I was asked four fairly rapid fire questions and I had to talk for 20 seconds or so (long enough some may say) on the above subjects. A few others did the same and our film will be shown at a mental health event in London in October. But one thing, there was no one to do my hair or make up! I could be in line for a BAFTA, you never know….

Seriously speaking, it would be nice for people to listen to others and what keeps them well in times of difficulty. I hope my little vox pop of around 2 minutes will resonate with some members of the public.

Just waiting for that acting contract to come through the post now……

A.S.D Brooks

Check out my WEIRD review….

I’ve written a review of the play WEIRD on SANE’s website. Check it out by clicking on the link:-

I’ll be grateful if you could check it out!

Many thanks

A.S.D Brooks

Celebrating difference….

This was a clever piece of marketing merchandise from the play WEIRD I saw the other day at the Edinburgh Fringe.

At school, anyone that was slightly different to others was labelled weird, or a freak. Certainly I had those insults levelled at me quite a few times. Unaware of any form of mental illness at the time, though my life was made a bit miserable at times, I had to get on with life. I wasn’t that good at sports or practical subjects (same still true today), and though I was good at academic subjects like Maths and English, that lack of practicality rendered me different.

And I wasn’t a great mixer either. I kept myself to myself. Partially true these days too. The childhood can colour your adult life. But I blissfully carried on with the insults still ringing in my ears.

Those insults have more or less stopped now and like most others with a mental illness of some form, my difference or weirdness is now more accepted, if not celebrated. Autism wasn’t heard of back in 1983, but it is now. There is a spectrum and people are on it, whether they like it or not.

And the same can be said of OCD. Again, nobody had heard of OCD back in 1983. But through the hearts and minds of people who suffer this very debilitating illness, we are all much more aware. And it’s striking that some people still link OCD to cleanliness. Not so. It’s an illness where rigid routine is adhered to to give the sufferer relief. It’s like an electrical circuit. The thought process goes round and round until something breaks the circuit and some kind of normality returns.

I’ve had to stand there and explain what OCD is to groups of schoolchildren at some of the presentations I do. They have great knowledge, but that link of tidiness and cleanliness is still with them. So I have to explain to them what I’ve written in the last few paragraphs.

OCD is a part of all that all encompassing weirdness. But it’s ok to be weird. It’s ok to be autistic. It’s ok to have OCD. It’s ok to have bipolar or schizophrenia. There was a correlation years ago between mental illness and being thought of as mad. All mental illness sufferers can go and live decent and productive lives. That doesn’t mean that sufferers are stupid or retarded. The quicker we get away from mental illness equals stupidity or madness the better.

Celebrate and embrace weirdness. It’s fine to be different, not to conform to certain patterns of behaviour. So go on, enjoy being WEIRD!!

A.S.D Brooks

A double dose of WEIRD….

Tired but happy. It’s been a long day and am on a (late) train back to London from Edinburgh. That today was a wonderful experience.

Standing outside the venue was the writer, Lucy Burke, with a handful of flyers ready to hand out to the mass of humanity milling outside the many venues at the Edinburgh Fringe. I had a very good and convivial conversation with Lucy. Lucy is very personable and you can sense the enthusiasm within her for this project, called WEIRD, focusing on her own personal struggles with OCD.

The show started at 1.45 in a room no bigger than my living room. The attendance was a little bit smaller than I expected, but it made for an intimate atmosphere. The performer had changed from London. The marvellous Amy Doyle is taking a break, understandably from WEIRD as the show runs for a month at the Fringe. In her place was the equally skilled and equally top class Charlotte Whitaker. In fact if I closed my eyes, I could have sworn Amy was speaking. Though both are from Yorkshire, they perfect the Bolton accent extremely well.

Unfortunately though, a member of the audience left halfway through, and when the performance finished, she was visibly distressed. I’m not sure what it was that triggered her distress, but this world of mental illness can get to us all.

Performance wise? Strong and confident, and you can pick out the sad moments, especially at the end, when the character loses her best friend in a car accident. The humour is still there, raw and undiluted, just as it should be.

Then it was back to the cavernous Edinburgh Waverley station. It is positively enormous and overflowing with people. Whether south of the border or north of the border, the train services are just the same. Return journey late, by only a few minutes though.

I just had that warm glow today that I’ve seen WEIRD in a different setting. Just that change, a different environment and a great setting. I would like to see WEIRD play to vast audiences, because the team that produce it are exceptionally capable of taking it onto bigger stages. It deals with mental illness with honesty, feeling and depth. And you can’t go too far wrong with honesty in this world. Lucy Burke also spoke of WEIRD going on tour in certain parts of England. I would like to bring along some of my colleagues in the mental health volunteering field. They would love it, and they would love the people that produce it.

Surprisingly on three hours sleep, I don’t feel too bad, but I will be crashing into my pit later on tonight. It’s the weekend after all.

WEIRD – A play about OCD – written by Lucy Burke, produced by Peter Taylor. Starring Amy Doyle or Charlotte Whitaker as Yasmin and a host of other characters.

Take my advice. Go and watch it. It’s fab.

A.S.D Brooks

Heading north of the border for some fringe benefits….

What a great day to be alive. As you can see, I’m off to Edinburgh for the world famous Fringe festival. I was awake from very early to get the early bus and train to Kings Cross for my journey. It’s a beautiful morning for travelling, sunny and not too hot.

Why am I off to Edinburgh? Well, not only for the reason that the Scottish capital is a great place, but I’m off to see that play I saw the other week, called WEIRD, by Lucy Burke, about a young woman’s personal battle with OCD. I so enjoyed the first performance in London the other week by actress Amy Doyle that this opportunity in Edinburgh was too good to miss.

WEIRD is showing all month at the Fringe and this is something I’ve been looking forward to since I booked the tickets. As I type, a glorious sun is adorning the sky and as I said, it feels great to be alive today, thankful for the world around me.

More updates later.

A.S.D Brooks