Mental health issues are no laughing matter but laughing at them can be good for people suffering from them. That is the goal of the Laughing Like Crazy program.
“The stigma is still there and will probably never go away as long as people try to hide it and stay away from talking about it,” said Ross Knechtel, president of the Mood Disorder Support Group of Guelph. “What we are trying to do with showcases like this is, bring it out in the open. People talk about their journey, about their trials and tribulations and put a humorous twist to it.”
Knechtel said Laughing Like Crazy is similar but not the same as the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Stand Up for Mental Health program.
“They are two different programs,” said Knechtel. “Stand Up for Mental Health is more about the show. Laughing Like Crazy is about the performers. It’s about their journey.”
Participants take part in a free 16-week peer group where they discuss their experiences with mental health disorders and create material for a comedy routine that they perform at the final showcase.
“In the 16 weeks we learn how to find humour in every day mental health issues,” said Knechtel. “We look at every-day situations and make fun of that. We also make fun of the mental health system. There are some really good jokes on that. It's peer support so people get to share their own journeys and a part of sharing that journey is pulling the humour from it.”
This will be the second time The Laughing Like Crazy Showcase was held in Guelph.
“The program has been around for a while,” said Knechtel. “The first time in Guelph was July 9, 2016 so, three years later we’re at it again. We’re probably the only community outside Toronto that has had this. They have them in Toronto all the time.”
"The showcase, Sep 21 at the Evergreen Centre, is co-sponsored by Hope and Me, Mood Disorders Association of Ontario – formerly the Mood Disorders Association of Ontario – and the Mood Disorders Support Group of Guelph that was established in 1990."
“It’s a peer support group for people with mental health issues,” said Knechtel. “We have a lot of bipolar folks, people with PTSD, depression, dysthymia, OCD and a variety of other things such as schizophrenia.”
The group is all-inclusive, free to join and meets at 10C on Carden Street Tuesday nights.
“We are funded by the United Way,” said Knechtel. “There are three facilitators, myself and two others. We are trained and certified facilitators but we aren’t certified psychiatrists or psychotherapists so there is no professional help and no paid staff. We are all volunteers.”
Knechtel said people from the 2016 Laughing Like Crazy program are helping with the program this year.
“Bart Campbell from Toronto and I facilitated this program and we have two other people from the 2016 program that are shadowing it so they can offer something else that is called Laughing Like Crazier, which is a shorter eight-week program,” he said.
Knechtel and the other facilitators each have a full set list of jokes to perform at the showcase to warm up the crowd but it is the program participants that made it all the way through the 16 week program that will be the stars of the show.
“It is a hell of a growing process to share your journey with 10 or 12 other people and listen to them as well,” said Knechtel. “Once you have been able to do that then talk about it in front of 200 people and get them to laugh with you, it is life changing. It really is.”
The event is free but they are accepting donations. To register visit here.