Stage of Mind

Stage of Mind

COVID-19 aggravated social exclusion of certain collectives through measures that restrict movement and human contact such as quarantines, lockdowns and stay-at-home recommendations. While such measures are crucial for stopping the spread of the virus, unfortunately they have aggravated the condition of isolation and loneliness of people with severe and prolonged mental illness living in supported housing.

The social isolation is a long known problem people with mental illness have been facing even before the pandemic. The individuals with mental illness (PWMI) often become isolated at all the levels by which social connection is derived and are less likely to have supportive relationships —partner relations, family, friends, workplace acquaintances, and community contacts. This reality compromises the recovery from mental illness and increases risk of relapse in comparison with those individuals who experience a sense of belonging to a community.

On the other hand, unlike an average person, adults belonging to this collective are rarely employed or enrolled in formal education programs which means that they lack access to environments and activities which would stimulate them intellectually and prevent their cognitive deterioration. The lockdown and regulations on social distance have contributed to their cognitive stagnation. At the same time, persons with prolonged and severe mental illness rarely have the chance to enjoy cultural and creative sector activities and almost never get the chance to participate or co-create it.

Six organizations from the mental health and performing arts sectors will join forces in order to tackle the above mentioned issues and reach the following objectives:

  1. Improve cognitive skills and key competences of adults living with severe and prolonged mental illness through a tailor made, professional performing arts training
  2. Facilitate access of people with psychosocial disabilities to the cultural and arts scene
  3. Prepare the participants to self-manage a professionalized theatre group, to promote their long-term presence on artistic stage and create a durable community with an intrinsic sense of belonging
  4. Advocate for social inclusion of people living with mental ill health and combat the stigma attached to them by giving visibility to the collective through the cultural and art

The partnership will use arts to involve PWMI in a meaningful activity that will stimulate their recovery, create a sense of belonging to a community, boost their creativity and improve multiple transversal competencies. Together they will implement StaGe of Mind, a multidisciplinary arts and education project that will exploit the educational and therapeutic potential of various arts disciplines- mainly theatre and dance, but also plastic arts, costumes design and characterization- by merging them all in one project. Each and every discipline will help develop a different set of skills and competencies among the participants in the project.

The main beneficiaries and protagonists of the project will be service users with mental illness from three European countries. Over 24 months, they will receive tailor made training from performing arts professionals and social educators, after which they will work together to conceive, design and perform a musical theatre show from scratch under the professionals’ direction and guidance. A total of 105 adults living with mental illness will participate in the project.

The entire creative process will be carried out following the co-production methodology. The participants will be involved in the design and production of the musical show from A to Z. The screenplay of the musical will be written collaboratively by the participants from the three countries while the staging will be developed by the creative teams located in each country. The participation of PWMI will not cease on acting. They will also design and produce the scenography, props, and costumes. At the end of the creative process, each national performers group will organize live performances.

The whole learning and creative process will be captured from the inside by a camera, in order to illustrate the experience and take it out to the general public in the form of a documentary film. The MAKING A MUSICAL documentary will be an educational and awareness raising tool contributing to fight stigma and, at the same time, the best way to assess and communicate the impact of the project on the participants.

The StaGe of Mind project will contribute to upskilling vulnerable adults and enhancing their employability. It will give the collective of PWMI access to quality performing arts training by experts in the field and the possibility to perform on the normalized art stage. At the same time, it will lead to increased visibility of the collective on local, national and European level, contributing to build more sensitized and inclusive communities of today and tomorrow.