New local project tackles mental health discrimination head on

The innovative Laughing for A Change project has been awarded a Time to Change grant to tackle mental health stigma and discrimination in Birmingham.

New local project tackles mental health discrimination head on - Photo credit Stephen Patrick Burke

New local project tackles mental health discrimination head on – Photo credit Stephen Patrick Burke

Time to Change is England’s mental health anti-stigma programme run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness and funded by the Department of Health and Comic Relief.  The programme is distributing grants to local community-led projects as part of its drive to improve public attitudes and behaviour in relation to mental health.

Laughing for A Change, which is led by people with mental health problems, will use the grant to establish meaningful and open conversations with others in the local area. The aim is to bring people who don’t have mental health problems into social contact with those who do. Evidence suggests that this kind of contact is one of the most effective ways of breaking down stigma and discrimination.

‘Laughing for a Change’ is run by Birmingham’s Women and Theatre in partnership with Birmingham LGBT Trust, Black Country Touring and Birmingham & Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust. Participants involved in the project will attend training to develop skills and confidence in stand-up comedy. The participants along with six professional comedians with experience of mental health problems will share their own experiences with the public – using comedy to start conversations about mental health. After the training they will all put their new skills to the test at community comedy nights and open-mic sessions. The project will culminate in a national ‘Laughing for a Change’ tour, visiting venues in the Midlands, London and the South East.

Janice Connolly, Artistic Director and herself a stand up comedian (aka Mrs Barbara Nice) from Women and Theatre, said: “We are delighted to have been awarded a Time to Change grant, which will allow us to take our project forward and challenge mental health stigma and discrimination. Through comedy we hope to be able to empower people with experience of mental health problems to deliver stand up sketches and in doing so help to break down the barriers that surround mental illness and enable some open conversations about people’s experiences. Mental health is no joke and we hope that through comedy we can help to end the taboo that is debilitating the lives of so many of us out there.”

Sue Baker, Director of Time to Change, said: “We know that one of the most powerful ways to change attitudes is when people take the lead in driving change within their own communities.  What works in one community may not work in another, so through the grants scheme we are putting the power to make change happen locally in the hands of the experts – the people who know their communities the best.

“We were impressed by the Laughing For A Change project’s proposal and we hope to see some excellent work coming out of their local community.”

For information about the grants visit