Clinical nurse Isaac Indras have spent most of his life supporting other’s people health but, in recent years, an early diagnosis of psychosis impacted his wellbeing in all spheres of his professional, social and personal life. More than support found in formal medical treatment, Isaac was searching to engage in different ways with other people facing the same issues, and hopefully have open conversations about mental issues. During his treatment, he started connecting and engaging with the PIECEs theatre group, led by IRD Pakistan. The programme is part of the user involvement activities the PIECEs team have been leading alongside the main research trial.
Both in India and Pakistan, mixed groups formed by people with lived experience of severe mental illness, carers, healthcare workers and artists have been working together to open a channel of communication, action and change through the applied arts workshops and and performances. Our mains goals are:
- To give a voice to people with psychosis and their experiences, highlighting their potential as well as their needs
- To enable local communities to better support and address the needs of people with psychosis
- To identify and mobilize community resources
- To create a more open and inclusive debate about mental illnessBelow you can read more about Isaac experience while joining the theatre team.
Could you tell us about yourself, a bit of your story and mental condition?
My name is Isaac, and I am 36 years old. I am a medical staff nurse. A few years ago, I found that I was not feeling well. My mental state was not well. I’ve started to hear voices, some were against me, and they were trying to abuse me. Some voices were awful to me. There were many stubborn voices – they kept teasing me. My mind was not feeling normal – it felt like it was speaking and thinking by itself, creating illusions and delusions. This is what I had to bear until I got help…
Did your condition have any impact on other aspects of your life?
My condition affected both my personal and professional life. When I was working, I could not fully concentrate on the task at hand, and further, the voices kept disturbing me. Many things kept happening, but I tried my best to focus on my work and do it perfectly, even though the voices were extremely disturbing. In my personal life, my brain was suffering from burn out, and I was so stressed that I could not think properly. I felt unfortunate and hopeless.
How did you hear about the PIECEs theatre team, and what made you want to join it?
I heard about the theatre team from my physician at Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (one of PIECEs main clinical partner in Pakistan). I had gone to her for my routine checkup, and she told me the theatre team was set up to create awareness about severe mental illness, and how to deal with psychosis patients in different ways. People with psychosis are often mistreated, lack extra-curricular activities, not supported by the government, and financially troubled…
My doctor advised me to join the theatre team. What made me join the team is that a few IRD (PIECEs main Research lead in Pakistan) members who were part of the team described how the team works and how it would effectively benefit the society. It was very fascinating, so I decided to join.
What did you think about the work, and how did you feel after joining the team and training?
I initially thought that the team would perform a familiar show which had been shown in theatres previously, but it was very different from that. The idea was to perform using the Theatre of the Oppressed methodology in society. (Theatre of the Oppressed is an interactive theatre form used worldwide for social and political activism, conflict resolution, community building, therapy, and government legislation). It transforms the traditional monologue between actors on a stage into a dialogue which ask audience members – spectators – to help and interact with us, they actively deal with oppression in their real lives and we start a conversation.
For people who do not correctly grasp information through debates, lectures, and reading books, theatre can easily convey the message. This fascinated me.
Has being in the arts company impacted your life?
Through the theatre group, I have found new friends who I can freely debate with, discuss my problems, and plan the future work of the company and our projects. I have found working in the arts group very helpful.
Is there a message you would like to share with others?
I would like to convey a message to those who facilitate patients suffering with psychosis. Please be empathetic towards these patients, sometimes people think they are speaking nonsensically and are useless to society. In my professional life, I have sometimes seen that people with psychosis are mistreated in hospitals and other places. This situation has to improve. If we encourage people with psychosis, I believe we can bring about a change. Patients with psychosis are often in another ‘time zone’, which gives them the ability to think and create. They are known to perform better in creative work. We could approach employers and request them to offer such work. It will be helpful and the society will benefit as well. These therapies can lead them towards sustainable professions, and we can also learn from their output. Therefore, my message is: please handle patients with compassion.
Here are some images of last week in Chennai, India, where our team from SCARF performed in one of the busiest bus stations in the city to raise awareness and reduce stigma around severe mental illness. The event marked the World Schizophrenia Awareness Day and it’s part of PIECEs Community Engagement Strategy.
The group of performers, formed by artists, healthcare workers, social workers and lived experienced members, were joined by an impromptu audience at the Thiruverkadu Bus Station!
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