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Touring play humanizes mental health

maladjusted, a touring play by Vancouver's Theatre for Living, is about the challenges of seeking help through the mental health system.

The challenges of seeking help through the mental health system, as told by patients and caregivers, is the focus of a touring play which will be performed in Hazelton tonight.

maladjusted, a production from Vancouver-based Theatre for Living, aims to humanize mental health by addressing issues with the public system.

Originally produced in 2013, the play was created and performed by patients and caregivers who applied their real-life experiences to their performances on stage.

Following three personal narratives, it tackles issues such as misdiagnosed illnesses, problems with dispensing prescription medication and the limitations on caregivers working in a mechanized system.

Tonight’s show at Hazelton Secondary School is part of a tour of 26 communities across B.C. and Alberta.

Director David Diamond, who has a close personal connection to the Hazeltons and the Gitxsan people having toured there many times, said there were a number of reasons the company wanted to bring the production to small communities.

“I think just at a cultural level it’s really important to bring quality theatre to people who don’t get to see it,” he said.

“This is a very powerful, well-produced evening of theatre.

“On the issues side, the theatre is a wonderful way to have conversations that are very difficult to have.”

For the 2015 tour, four of the original cast members have been reunited on stage alongside two new faces, Christine Germano and Columpa Bobb.

Bobb, a First Nations woman, said the impacts of residential schools and enforced reserves made mental health an issue that affected her entire community.

She hoped local audiences would be empowered by the show.

“What I hope the audience takes away when they leave is a belief in their right to crack through the silence and be heard, be seen, be cherished, be believed and held in a good light,” she said.

“I think if they can go away believing that then they will have a stronger foundation on which to fight for themselves inside the mechanization of the health system and other parts of our health and welfare systems that exist in our country today.”

Despite the show’s serious subject matter, Diamond and Bobb said it was both entertaining and funny.

maladjusted starts at 7 p.m. at Hazelton Secondary School tonight. Admission is free.