The UK’s public health services are officially prescribing stand-up comedy classes to men at risk of suicide from mental trauma or depression—after a pilot program proved outrageously successful.
While stand-up is one of the hardest, and scariest things most people could think to do, humor is also one of the most innate ways human beings process trauma.
Despite what social activists have for decades said about some topics being off-limits, British comedian Angie Belcher is showing that people exploring their personal history through comedy often makes them “stronger and more resilient.”
Belcher is the pioneer of Comedy on Referral, a six-week course for trauma survivors in Bristol that is now receiving National Health Service (NHS) funding to expand its programs to London to help men at risk of suicide.
Belcher, who describes herself on Twitter as a “Comedian in Residence,” also founded AFTERMIRTH Comedy Club—which helps celebrate parenthood and fight post-natal depression through stand-up comedy.
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She explained Comedy on Referral to the Guardian, and why it has the power to change trauma survivors’ mentalities.
“My course for trauma victims encourages them to process their trauma in a different way, so they can change who the victim is and choose the narrative. They can actually go right down into ‘This is what I was thinking and then this thing happened to me’,” said Belcher.
“This enables survivors to consciously use comedy to change their perspective of their experiences, but it also puts them in a physically powerful position because being on stage is very powerful.”
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This week, the North West London Integrated Care System, a large partner of the various NHS trusts, rewarded Belcher’s efforts with a grant in the hope to reduce British suicide rate by 10%. They admit they’ve never done anything like this before, but they’re excited by the results.
20 men over the age of 18 who have had suicidal episodes are currently in the program, in which Belcher works alongside psychologists to ensure that fine line between what’s funny and what can be triggering is walked safely.
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