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WISE Stand Up for Mental Health

Image of award-winning Canadian comedian, David Granirer.

For the second year, WISE Employment brings WISE Stand Up to Mental Health (WSMH) to Australia - this time, to Sydney! WISE Stand Up for Mental Health (WSMH) 2014 is a unique stand-up comedy event featuring award-winning Canadian comedian David Granirer. David, an author and counsellor who has depression, is training nine more Australians with mental illness to develop their own stand-up comedy routine on the highs and lows of living with mental illness.

WISE Stand Up for Mental Health aims to provide empowerment to the comedians and a fresh perspective to the audience to help end stigma surrounding mental illness. Australian comedian and WISE Stand Up for Mental Health ambassador Steve Bedwell will make a special appearance, and the comedians from last year's event will perform their comedy acts along with the NSW comedians.

Do you, or someone you know want to participate in WISE Stand Up for Mental Health 2014? Following the success of WISE Stand Up For Mental Health in Melbourne in 2013, we are looking for people who have a mental illness to be part of the first WSMH in New South Wales by volunteering to become a stand-up comedian. Find out how you can participate in the first WISE Stand Up for Mental Health in Sydney.

WISE Stand Up for Mental Health (WSMH) 2014 takes place on Thursday 30 October 2014, 7pm at The Sydney Town Hall.

WSMH is part of WISE Employment’s three-year Empowermental campaign to help reduce the stigma of employing people who have a mental illness. 

Please contact Steve Bedwell on phone: 03 8329 8740, mobile: 041 861 6427 or email: standup@wiseemployment.com.au to enquire about participating in WISE Stand Up for Mental Health, or for booking the existing talented WISE Stand Up for Mental Health comedians for your next event.

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WISE Stand Up for Mental Health logo.

How to take part as a stand-up comedian in WSMH 2014

Do you, or someone you know, want to participate in WISE Stand Up for Mental Health 2014?

Following the success of WISE Stand Up For Mental Health (WSMH) in Melbourne in 2013, we are looking for nine people in New South Wales who have a mental illness to be part of the first WSMH in Sydney 2014 by volunteering to become a stand-up comedian. This includes attending weekly comedy classes and performing at a public showcase at Sydney Town Hall on 30 October 2014 to share your mental health journey through your unique stand-up comedy act.

What are the criteria for being a stand-up comedian? You must:
• Have a mental illness or experience mental health issues
• Have stable housing
• Have a support system of both peers (friends and family) and professionals
• Be reasonably stable on any medication you are taking
• Be capable of sitting in class and paying attention
• Be able to read and write in English
• Have access to a computer, email and phone
• Commit to all weekly comedy classes, warm up show, dress rehearsal, showcase event and some promotional activities
• Travel to Marrickville, NSW for classes
• Have the motivation and desire to create healthy change
• And above all else, have a desire to do stand-up comedy or just want to have a go.

Have a look at the full guidelines and eligibility requirements for WISE Stand Up for Mental Health 2014.

If you meet all eligibility requirments, please download an application form to take part in WISE Stand Up for Mental Health 2014

Please email completed application forms to WISE Employment by 30 July 2014.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Watch highlights from last year's WISE Stand Up for Mental Health:

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Image of comedian David Granirer, founder of the Stand Up for Mental Health comedy school

More about David Granirer and WISE Stand Up for Mental Health

Award-winning comedian David Granirer founded Stand Up for Mental Health in Canada in 2004 and has successfully graduated over 300 people with mental illness through his comedy schools in Canada and North America. David lives with depression and is an advocate for eradicating the stigma surrounding mental illness. He is an author and counsellor and a pioneer in the therapeutic use of humour.

WISE Employment partnered with David to bring his Stand Up for Mental Health initiative to Australia, for the first time to Melbourne in 2013, and now to Sydney in 2014. In doing so, we have created WISE Stand Up for Mental Health.

In 2014, David will again train a group of budding comedians to each develop a short comedy act, talking about their experiences with mental illness and other areas of their lives. The 12-week comedy school will be held at WISE Employment's Marrickville office from August to October 2014, with David conducting classes via Skype from Canada.

David will teach the comedians everything they need to know to successfully perform their comedy act to a 1,200-strong crowd – from setting up a scenario and delivering a punch line, to body language and timing. David’s coaching extended beyond the weekly classes to include one-on-one tutorials and extra support as needed. Read more about David.

For background info about the Stand Up for Mental Health comedy school and the work that David has accomplished in Canada and North America, have a look at this video link, originally featured in 2012 on SBS Dateline Australia:

 

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Two of the WISE Stand Up for Mental Health comics, Stephen Parslow and Josephine Maria, with WSMH Ambassador Steve Bedwell.

Why is WISE Employment bringing Stand Up for Mental Health to Australia?

WISE Employment partnered with David Granirer to bring Stand Up for Mental Health to Australia because we believe that comedy is a powerful tool to help end stigma surrounding mental illness.

Our goal is for the comedians involved to learn a new skill, to experience empowerment by sharing their journey of mental illness in a different way through comedy, gain confidence and have the experience of a lifetime. The audience that attended the grand public showcase on 25 Oct 2013 at Deakin Edge Fed Square in Melbourne had the opportunity to gain unique insight into mental illness - insight that has the power to positively shape their own attitudes and considerations towards employing people with a mental illness. We plan to bring about the same result this year with WISE Stand up for Mental Health in Sydney.

We believe that WISE Stand Up for Mental Health creates a positive and inclusive platform for people to share stories and laughter and contribute towards breaking down and helping end stigma.

WISE Stand Up for Mental Health is part of WISE Employment’s three-year Empowermental campaign to help reduce the stigma of employing a person who has a mental illness. Every day WISE Employment staff see first-hand the stigma that people with mental illness experience when they are looking for a job. We work closely with employers to help them see that, with the right support, a person who has a mental illness can work and might be the best person for the job. It’s about encouraging employers to see the person first, not the mental illness, and give someone a fair go.

WISE Stand Up for Mental Health is an innovative initiative we, as a not-for profit organisation that helps some of the most disadvantaged people in our community to find work – including people with mental illness – are passionate about delivering and proud to support. 

Watch the ABC 7.30 Report segment about WSMH: "When is it okay to joke about mental illness?"

 

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Australian comedian and WISE Stand Up for Mental Health ambassador, Steve Bedwell

Meet Steve Bedwell, ambassador for WISE Stand up for Mental Health

WISE Employment and David Granirer have again enlisted the support of Melbourne comedian and radio personality Steve Bedwell as the official WISE Stand Up for Mental Health ambassador. Steve was diagnosed with bipolar a few years ago. As well as making a cameo performance at the grand public showcase of WISE Stand Up for Mental Health in Sydney on 30 October 2014, Steve will be providing on-the-ground support and mentoring to the comedians. Read more about Steve.

See also: 'Erratic' Triple M radio host Steve Bedwell reveals extent of depression

 

 

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Words 'Comedy for change' written in black on a white background

Comedy for change

WISE Stand Up for Mental Health is about comedy for change. It uses the power of comedy to share stories of mental illness, empowering the comedians involved and making a positive impact on those who hear the stories. The comics’ comedy routines aim to inspire people to rethink the stigmatised views society has towards people who have a mental illness and their capacity for living fulfilling lives.

We’d like to think we like in a world without stigma, but we don’t. The WSMH comedians report having felt stigmatised in their lives because of their mental illness – whether in personal relationships, family dynamics or employment opportunities. They are all looking forward to having the opportunity to share their experiences of mental illness to break down stigma.

The experience of mental illness is often isolating, frightening and lonely. People need support, understanding and acceptance from their friends, family, colleagues and community to begin a journey to recovery. Unfortunately the opposite tends to happen with mental illness. Mental illness is something that as a society we are not good at understanding or accepting because we can’t see it and we have pre-conceived ideas about it that do not reflect reality - for example that people with mental illness are violent or scary.

These stereotypical notions and fear of the unknown create stigma. Stigma is defined as a mark of infamy or disgrace, and it’s the last thing that people experiencing mental illness need from their community.

The reality is that one in five Australians experience mental illness in any given year and we need to be more inclusive and accepting so as not to marginalise and stigmatise a fifth of our population. Over the last financial year, WISE Employment has assisted more than 800 people with a known mental illness into employment.

Watch highlights from last year's WISE Stand Up for Mental Health:

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From left to right, WISE Stand Up for Mental Health comedians Josephine Maria, Stephen Parslow, and Rohan Forster.

Meet the WISE Stand Up for Mental Health comedians from 2013

In 2013, WISE Employment recruited a group of interested people to participate in WISE Stand Up for Mental Health. The criteria: that they have a mental illness, be open to talking about their experience of living with mental illness to help end stigma, and have a desire to learn stand-up comedy. The comedians are based in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. They have diverse backgrounds and their experience of mental illness includes depression, bipolar, post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction, psychosis, schizophrenia and anxiety. As culmination of their stand-up comedy training, the WISE Stand Up for Mental Health comedians performed their debut stand-up comedy acts along award-winning comedian and founder of Stand Up for Mental Health, David Granirer, and Melbourne comedian Steve Bedwell on Friday 25 Oct 2013 at Deakin Edge Fed Square in Melbourne. 

 

 

Meet the WISE Stand Up for Mental Health comedians:

 

Gizem Acaroglu, one of the WISE Stand Up for Mental Health comedians

Gizem Acaroglu (from Victoria)

For most of her life Gizem has been unwell, often for long periods. She has schizophrenia, manic depression and depression. Gizem describes her experiences with the mental health system as very negative. She says that the stigma she has experienced has been from the mental health system itself, rather than the wider community. Gizem has a desire to share her mental illness story with others and use comedy to reduce the stigma around mental illness. She wants to make her story funny because, in her words, her mental illness has brought on some hilarious moments. She has joined WISE Stand Up for Mental Health to meet people, hopefully make it on television and find the funny side of her mental health life. Read more about Gizem.

 

Julian Bartlett, one of the WISE Stand Up for Mental Health comedians

Julian Bartlett (from Tasmania)

Julian is a 31-year old graphic designer from Launceston. He was diagnosed with diabetes at 25 and manic depression at 28. He says these illnesses feed off each other - when he’s depressed he eats sugary food to make himself feel better and then gets tired because of his diabetes. His family know he has manic depression but they don’t really understand what that means for him. Julian often has to explain what’s happening when he gets manic, and remind them that it’s part of his illness. Read more about Julian.

 

Bernie Ewart, one of the WISE Stand Up for Mental Health comedians

Bernie Ewart (from Victoria)

Bernie was severely bullied in high school and as a result he made poor choices included self-medicating and self-harm. He developed a desire to prove to the world that he was OK, even when he wasn’t. Under the stage name Axl Taylor, Bernie carved out a successful career for himself in radio announcing, acting and stand-up comedy, even playing Len the Barman on Blue Heelers for four years. Through WISE Stand Up for Mental Health Bernie hopes to bring a better understanding to that way Australia deals with mental health issues. He knows first-hand how hard it is to live with an illness in a society that is very quick to judge and lacking in understanding. Read more about Bernie.

 

Rohan Forster, one of the WISE Stand Up for Mental Health comedians

Rohan Forster (from Victoria)

Rohan said he had had suffered long before he was formally diagnosed with depression in 1994. Since his childhood he had felt a sense of disconnection and that “things were not right”. Feeling apart from others has led to a sense of isolation for Rohan, and consequently, to actual isolation. Rohan has experienced stigma towards his mental illness in both his professional and personal life -from unsuccessful employment attempts when he has disclosed his illness, to a range of unsupportive responses from people he considered friends. Adding some enjoyment to his life is one of the reasons Rohan was keen to join WISE Stand Up for Mental Health. He sees it as an opportunity to create a supportive social network, gain and develop new skills and confidence and to offer hope - or even inspiration - to others who may be experiencing mental illness. Read more about Rohan.

 

Josephine Maria, one of the WISE Stand Up for Mental Health comedians

Josephine Maria (from Victoria)

Josephine wants to participate in WISE Stand Up for Mental Health to show that people with mental illness are normal - they just have an illness that can’t be seen. She believes the general population are largely ignorant about mental illness and comedy may prove to be the right medium to create better understanding. She also thinks learning stand-up and braving the stage will help build her self-esteem and confidence. Read more about Josephine.

 

Stephen Parslow, one of the WISE Stand Up for Mental Health comedians

Stephen Parslow (from Victoria)

Keeping in the darkness has been Stephen Parslow’s comfort zone for twenty years living with a mental illness. His father’s death through suicide led to Stephen’s drug addition, thoughts of suicide, a gambling addiction and depression. Stephen joined WISE Stand up for Mental Health to prove himself and follow through on something meaningful in his life. Stephen believes the comedy school will build his confidence and take him of out his comfort zone. It’s something he feels he will be proud of for many years to come. Read more about Stephen.

 

Maggie Toko, one of the WISE Stand Up for Mental Health comedians

Maggie Toko (from Victoria)

Thirteen years ago Maggie was diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia while she was in her fourth year studying law and working as a general manager for a large charity. She had to stop both. A key part of re-building her life was her strong network of friends, finding part time work in welfare and leading a youth mental health team in the western suburbs of Melbourne. Working helped Maggie maintain some semblance of normality. While she had about six years of psychotic episodes and hospital stays, Maggie had a very understanding employer that stood by her during the hard times. Read more about Maggie.

 

Craig Tolley, one of the WISE Stand Up for Mental Health comedians

Craig Tolley (from Victoria)

Craig says that his best friend in the whole world is his dog Cindy. For the last four and a half years he has worked as a cleaner in Northcote. In the past Craig worked 60 hours a week and to cope with the stress he drank too much and eventually ended up in hospital. Craig has schizophrenia. His view is that if he takes his medication he is just as normal as the next person. Craig is doing WISE Stand Up for Mental Health to gain confidence in all areas of his life. He doesn’t necessarily want to be a stand-up comedian, he just wants to have fun, meet some new people and hopefully make his friends and family proud. Read more about Craig.

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Empowermental word-mark logo

Empowermental

WISE Stand Up for Mental Health is part of the Empowermental campaign that runs each year during Mental Health Month (October) in Australia. Empowermental is a three-year campaign to help reduce the stigma surrounding the employment of people who have a mental illness.

Empowermental supports the belief that a person who has a mental illness can be the best person for the job.

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A few of the talented WISE Stand Up for Mental Health comedians.

Book the comedians!

Planning a conference, work function or event? We are passionate about spreading the message of hope and laughter which we saw develop over the course of the WISE Stand Up for Mental Health comedy school and culminate in the live event at Deakin Edge Fed Square on 25 October 2013.

Following its success and the ABC 7.30 Report segment about WISE Stand Up for Mental Health, there have been several requests for the comedians to perform additional shows for companies and organisations. WISE Employment is supporting the comedians to find and manage bookings of events where they will perform their unique, original and hilariously insightful stand-up comedy routines – all to help end mental illness stigma.

Please contact Steve Bedwell on phone: 03 8329 8740, mobile: 041 861 6427 or email: standup@wiseemployment.com.au to enquire about booking the talented WISE Stand Up for Mental Health comedians for your next event.

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The WISE Stand Up for Mental Health comedians and team up on stage at Deakin Edge Federation Square.

Testimonials

We've been overwhelmed by the positive public feedback and high level of enthusiasm for WISE Stand Up for Mental Health. Since October 2013, the WSMH comedians have been performing their stand-up comedy routines at a number of private events. Below are some of the recent testimonials, highlighting the meaning WISE Stand Up for Mental Health has brought to companies, organisations and communities. A heartfelt thank you to everyone for your valuable, ongoing support! 

WISE Stand Up for Mental Health testimonials

  • Steve Vizard, Gold Logie award winning television and radio presenter, lawyer, comedian, producer, author and screenwriter.

Book the WSMH comedians for events, conferences and functions

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Range of photos showing highlights from WISE Stand Up for Mental Health - comedy for change

Awards - WISE Stand Up for Mental Health

Rotary International Southern Districts 'Shine On' Award for Special Achievement in Services to Mental Health 2014

On 4 May 2014, the WISE Stand Up for Mental Health comedians were awarded the Special Achievement Award for Services to Mental Health, as part of the Rotary International Southern Districts Shine On Awards 2014.

Rotary Award certificate awarded to the WISE Stand Up for Mental Health comedians for Special Achievement: Services to Mental Health.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Planning a conference, work function or event? We are passionate about spreading the message of hope and laughter to help end mental illness stigma.

Book the WSMH comedians for events, conferences and functions

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