When the Mental Health Foundation’s Open Minds project was looking for ways to explain how to support a person experiencing mental distress in the workplace – it chose humour.
Comedian, writer, actor and director Cori Gonzalez-Macuer, in association with Attitude Pictures Ltd, was invited to help produce two role plays and he could not have been a better choice.
Using all of his creative skills, the What We Do in the Shadows star also had his own personal experiences to draw on when developing the scripts.
“I’d been doing a few bits and pieces with Attitude Pictures and general manager Tanya Black contacted me when this opportunity came up as she knew I would be supportive,” he says.
“I was drawn to making something that, as well as being funny [hopefully], also has a strong message.”
The pair worked on the resource together. Tanya tackled the serious material, while Cori wrote and added the comedy aspect.
“It was cool to see what we came up with, being acted out pretty convincingly by the cast.”
Cori says mental health and depression are topics that hit quite close to home for many people in the performance industry, including a few of those involved in the Open Minds role plays.
“I've had stages in my life where I've been quite depressed.” he says. “Initially I couldn’t make sense out of it, I thought, ‘I can’t be depressed, I have nothing to be depressed about’. I thought I was getting better, but then I got worse.”
In the last three to four years Cori’s figured out that talking to people is the best thing to do.
“Talking to someone might seem like a struggle at first, but once you do, you'll be a lot better off for it. Friends, my dad and my partner Anna definitely helped a lot.”
For the last couple of years, he’s given talks where he’s spoken about his experiences. “It’s tough but once you get out there and do it, it is very rewarding.”
Working on the Open Minds role plays has given Cori insight into the challenges many people experiencing mental distress face in their workplaces.
“We tend to have more open conversations in my working community,” he says. “Other comedians are more approachable when it comes to those sort of things – everyone is just pretty accepting.
“But for many others who spend a lot of their time in their workplace, if you're unhappy there, you're unhappy for a large part of your life.
“It was important in the role plays to show how social inclusion makes it easier for those who feel down, to talk to someone and not be scared about sharing their problems – whether it is face-to-face, via email or with the support of another person.”
Bearing that in mind, Cori worked his magic on the script to create characters he hopes are relatable to others.
Using comedy as the platform means, “there were heaps of funny moments”.
“I’m hoping the cast can get a bloopers reel, as describing them doesn’t do them justice. In the meantime, I encourage everyone to watch and share these videos as they come out.”
This story appeared in MindNet, a monthly newsletter produced by the MHF to keep you up-to-date with the latest in mental health promotion. Sign up to receive MindNet.