The play, which debuts at Stanford University on Thursday, features dozens of true stories about mental illness. It gives voice to real people whose lives have been touched by mental-health disorders, the creators say.
In the United States, 1 in 5 adults lives with mental illness. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the majority are mildly or moderately affected by their mental-health condition. But 4.5 percent of all U.S. adults have severe mental illnesses that substantially limit their lives.
Regardless, stigma can make things worse. A 2013 literature review found that stigma is widespread, and that inaccurate beliefs about the supposed danger of people with mental-health disorders have grown over time.
Zack Burton, a Stanford PhD student, learned about stigma firsthand when he had a psychotic break and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Burton and his partner Elisa Hofmeister felt isolated and helpless until they heard about the similar experiences of close friends — and wondered why it had taken so long for them to share their stories. A show was born.
The play’s advisory team includes mental-health advocates, researchers and journalists. One adviser, Rona Hu, directed Stanford Hospital’s acute psychiatric inpatient unit for more than a decade. She will tell her own story alongside Burton and others.
Fifteen actors deliver the monologues onstage. The play is running for only a few days at Stanford, but the creators say they hope to one day get it to “a theater near you.”