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Houston – According to American Psychiatric Association, “Mental illnesses are health conditions involving changes in thinking, emotion, or behavior (or a combinations of these). Mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities.” There are many people across the world who suffer from mental illnesses, and some may not even know it. Of the many conversations that occur all over the nation, mental illness is not a subject that is generally discussed, and it should be. To help with this, one upcoming production is making sure that the community is more aware about the topic of mental illness. CryBaby, an original play will tackle mental health issues on stage.

According to American Psychiatric Association, in one year: “nearly one in five adults experience dome form of mental illness, one in 24 has a serious mental illness, and one in 12 has a substance use disorder.” This play will look at the everyday impact of mental illness on an individual, a family, and a community. The goal of the play is to educate the community, and spark a conversation in order to help those who are unaware, and those who may be in need. The writer of this play, Joyce Smith, who holds a Master’s Degree in Counseling, has seen the effects of mental health through her work in education, advocacy, and in her own personal life. The play will be held at Encore Theater at 4112 Old Spanish Trail in Houston, Tx 77021 on May 6th at 2pm and 5pm. For more information about the play, you can visit their website at www.crybabytheplay.com 

In a recent interview with Joyce Smith, she answered a variety of questions that were in regards to mental illness, and questions that revolve around the play.

(C.D.) Why do you believe that mental illness is the key to sound living?

(J.S.) “I think that a lot of times we have so many different things that are distracting us from being completely well and completely whole. We are living our day to day lives trying to make sure we are paying bills and take care of family, and seeing things that are occurring on the news, and even our personal issues…I think we become so automated to get things done that when we actually take a moment to breathe we don’t realize that we aren’t mentally well. We could be operating a whole lot more effectively if we actually took time to just get self check ups and make sure we are balancing life and enjoying life and not in the day-to-day routine of things. People automatically assume that mental illness is only just being diagnosed with something major like bipolar or schizophrenia…but there are also issues of depressions and feelings of anxiety that can keep you from working to your fullest potential. Being able to monitor and adjust those things can help you live a life that’s more satisfactory.”

(C.D.) How can people try and filter out everything we take in and balance our lives?

(J.S.)“I think the biggest thing is to realize that there is always tomorrow. As long as you’re breathing, there is always tomorrow. Everything doesn’t have to get done today, and everything doesn’t have to be done perfectly. I think we have to acknowledge our limitations and take time to smell the roses.”

(C.D.)The initial idea for the play came after reading multiple articles where mentally ill mothers had killed their children. How did that affect you emotionally to write this play?

(J.S.)“I was just disturbed because I wondered if they had gotten help, and what type of support did they have, and could it have been avoidable? My initial objective was to spark a dialogue. The play is called CryBaby because a lot of time, especially women, they are seen as hormonal, or being extra or being stressed, and you’re just being whiny like a big crybaby. I wanted to bring awareness to this…it’s not something that individuals can handle by themselves. It’s a collective thing, and it takes family, and having support. I just wondered what kind of support system did these women really have, or did they suffer in silence. The tagline to the play is silent noise, because a lot of times we are making noise, but it’s something that no one else is noticing and stopping to actually hear.”

(C.D.)How can people recognize when someone has a mental illness? What should they pay attention to?

(J.S.) “I think what they shouldn’t do is look for major things. I think sometimes Hollywood has glamourized mental illnesses that we don’t look for some of the subtle things. It could be sleeplessness or sleeping a lot. It could be being irritable, or being snapping…or someone who used to be timely and are now increasingly late. Those are initial things that some people need to say are you okay? Just noticing the subtlety of individual changes…then it’s time to sit back and reflect and see what’s going on. I think if people begin to notice the little things, if it is a serious mental disorder, then they can be able to notice as those signs began to worsen.”

(C.D.)How do you approach someone who may be in denial about having a mental illness?

(J.S.) “You can approach them with research with what they’ve been experiencing…and show them what you’ve found. You don’t want to diagnose anyone…but hopefully they will be open to it.

 If not, honestly at the end of the day, it is about self-preservation, and you can continue to watch them and see if they may worsen and they are not able to maintain and function as they once were…sometimes unfortunately they have to learn the hard way, or they may not get help until it’s regularly evident that something is wrong.”

(C.D.) Why do you feel like this subject is not talked about as much, especially in the African community?

“I think it can be embarrassing, it can be fear, and not wanting to seem like something is wrong…because of stigmas and stereotypes. In the African American community, there is the religious practice that is faith based and spirituality issues that things are taken to God and those things can be handled and made well. Not taking anything away from people that believe in the spirituality and God being able to heal, but I am a strong believer that those gifts and talents that he gives to people to help make you well, are just as important as the spiritual aspects.”

What message do you want people to take from the play?

“Talk about it! Get help and be aware. Don’t feel as if it is something that you did wrong. The biggest thing is being able to tackle relatable subjects in a non-threatening way.”

The play will be held at Encore Theater at 4112 Old Spanish Trail in Houston, Tx 77021 on May 6th at 2pm and 5pm. For more information about the play, you can visit their website at www.crybabytheplay.com

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