Mental health as standup

By Anders Frieberg
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While some may say mental health is no joking matter, others might laugh that off.

“Stand Up For Mental Health,” an international program founded by counselor David Granirer, came to Iowa City on Sunday, bringing plenty of laughs with it.

The comedy show comes from Granirer’s class Standup Comedy Clinic at Langara College in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Granirer has hosted the program for 16 years, along with managing his counseling practice. He has done 35 shows across the continent.

Working with the Johnson County Crisis Center for Mental Health Week, the routine visited the Englert Theater free of charge and played to a full house. Iowa City was one of only five places with scheduled performances for the next two months.

The goals of the campaign are to reduce negative stigmas surrounding mental-health issues and encourage hope and empowerment.

“People come to our shows, and I hear them saying stuff like, ‘Oh man, I saw that guy on stage, and he was hilarious,’ Granirer said. “And how often do you hear hilarious and schizophrenia in the same sentence? People see a completely different side of mental health and mental illness.”

Standups were required to follow several stipulations, including having a disability/addiction/mental-health issue and be in good mental health for at least one year.

Granirer said that although the program is not meant to be therapy, he has had student performers overcome mental-health disorders and increase their confidence and self-esteem.

University of Iowa Active Minds President Allison Garmager said it would be efective in spreading awareness of mental health in the community.

“Starting the conversation about mental health — this event will allow people to understand more fully what people with mental illness go through,” Garmager said.

“It will be an educational experience for some people,” she said. “There may be people in the audience who don’t know much about mental health. It’s not every day you hear people speak about their mental illness.”

Garmager also said her group’s attendance might lead to more strategies in working on campus.

“I would like to talk about it with the group after we get done, and see what people’s thoughts are, and see if people can provide helpful tips for it,” Garmager said. “Even at our meetings, we talk about why people get involved in this and what we can do to help with people struggling with mental illness.”

Claire Barrett, the Englert front of house manager, said there were more than 225 people in attendance.

“It’s really great; we like doing a lot of outreach with the community, so an event like this is pretty fantastic,” said Barrett. “We’re able to invite people from the community to be onstage as well as to come to an event to see people dealing with mental health in a cool way. It’s a great way to show a performance.”

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