BE BRAVE: This is My Brave Australia - Central Coast show producers Ross Beckley and Veronique Moseley, of Behind the Seen, and Greg Smith, of Men Care Too.
BE BRAVE: This is My Brave Australia - Central Coast show producers Ross Beckley and Veronique Moseley, of Behind the Seen, and Greg Smith, of Men Care Too. GREG SMITH @mencareCC

Staging a Brave rethink of mental health

A NEW project is encouraging Central Coast residents to share their mental health challenges in a supportive but public way to help break down the stigmas that still exist, and offer hope.

This is My Brave Australia - Central Coast Show is being produced by Men Care Too founder and carer Greg Smith in collaboration with other local organisations.

Through storytelling, poetry, song, dance and creative expression live on stage, it aims to help people understand lived experiences and rethink mental health stereotypes.

Developed in America in 2014, there have been 45 US and just three Australian shows to date.

Greg said he had met Canberra producer Tim Daly at a conference last year and realised the potential healing power of a platform to speak out creatively for participants and others dealing with mental health issues.

Shows run like a theatre production, with auditions followed by support, rehearsals and the performance.

"We are looking for 12-14 story-tellers who will each have 5-7 minutes to perform," Greg said.

"We would love to have people of all age groups involved.

"Mental health is something older generations didn't talk about, so we would really encourage seniors to be involved."

Greg said the auditions were a chance to meet people who wanted to be involved and hear a little about their ideas and what and how they want to share, rather than presentation of completed pieces.

"We will definitely be working with people and making sure everyone is confident and comfortable about what they are doing," Greg said.

"The 'cast' is definitely our focus and there will be a lot of peer support in the lead-up which we hope will evolve into ongoing informal support.

"We want them to feel really empowered because every person and every story matters."

Greg said participants did not have to have a diagnosed mental health illness and could perform either solo or with others.

"It really pulls on your heart strings, but it's also uplifting because there is such a focus on recovery, on how people manage and live well, and what has helped them achieve that," Greg said of past performances, which are available to watch on YouTube.

"It's incredible how resilient people are and how supportive other people can be if you do open up to them."

American co-founder Jennifer Marshall, who has diagnosed bipolar disorder said, "One of the things that helped me to get through the darkness of feeling like it would never get better was finding stories from other people who had made it through".

The show is a 100 per cent volunteer production, with others involved including the Iris and Elderslee Foundations, Behind the Seen and Epicentre.

Profits will go to suicide prevention and mental health first aid training.

Auditions for This is My Brave Australia (TIMBA) are at Tuggerah Library 12-4pm on July 26, and 9.30am-2pm July 27, with the show at the Grove Theatre Wyong during Mental Health Week on Sunday, October 20.

To find out more, search TIMBA Central Coast on Eventbrite or Facebook, email mybravecentral or phone 0400 604231.

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