Humorist shares mental health struggles

Learning how to 'heal through humour'

Humour can be used to help heal lives and minds, people attending the Mayor’s Luncheon heard on May 7 at McKenna Hall as they marked Mental Health Week in Weyburn.

Ian Morrison, founder of “Healing Through Humour”, shared his experiences of dealing with his own mental health issues, which had led him to the brink of suicide until he discovered his talents lay in making people laugh.

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Morrison has been dealing with obsessive compulsive disorder since he was eight years old, but it wasn’t even diagnosed until he was 16. As a child, his parents were told that he was simply seeking attention, and he wasn’t treated for the condition until the end of his high school years. In his Grade 12 year, he was hospitalized three times and he finally was given the proper medication to control his disorder.

He noted he fell in love for the first time around when he was diagnosed, “which was really bad timing. After three years, she left me because she couldn’t take me any more.”

The result of this breakup was what he called his “Brian Wilson” phase, as “it completely destroyed me and I was severely depressed. I slept for like 19 hours a day.”

This depression nearly did him in, but during this time he did a video of himself telling jokes which he submitted to a comedy club, and he was subsequently invited to come and perform.

Morrison said he then hit rock bottom when he lost his job for the sixth time.

“I had a complete psychological breakdown. It was pretty much as bad as it could get. The only way I got through that was through a Phoenix residential facility, which helps people with mental illness,” said Morrison, noting that during his stay there, they asked him what he wanted to do with his life.

He mentioned he liked doing comedy, and they looked into a comedy course available in B.C., but determined it wouldn’t be a good place for him to attend — so his counsellors suggested he write his own program for teaching comedy.

“So I did, and it’s been going for nine years now,” said Morrison, noting they have made short films, a feature film and music videos all around comedy, involving other people who were also dealing with mental health issues.

“Each of these things ended up helping people a great deal,” said Morrison.

He related one episode where he gave a stand-up routine, and encouraged people to step forward and talk about any mental health issues they may have been dealing with.

“Afterward, a 50-year-old soundman came up to me and said nobody had ever said that it’s okay before. A lot of people don’t say it’s okay to have a mental illness or to be different. You know what it’s like to live in pain, but we fight that as much as we can with humour,” said Morrison.

When comedian and actor Robin Williams took his own life, said Morrison, “I decided it was time to comment on this comedically,” and this led to making a short film about a person who commits suicide.

Working with people on the films and music videos has been very fulfilling, he added, particularly when he sees someone lose themselves in playing a role in a film or a video, such as one woman who found the experience very cathartic.

“Every time I said action, you could see her pain melt away. They were able to escape and have fun. Just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you can’t have fun,” said Morrison.

He encouraged people to look up their films and videos on Facebook and on their YouTube channel to see the work they have done.

Earlier at the luncheon, CMHA executive director Tasha Collins noted the various events held for Mental Health Week, all promoting greater awareness of mental health in the community.

“Mental health is a state of well-being and we all have it. We can all benefit by understanding the role mental health can play in our lives,” said Collins.

“CMHA wants people to ‘get loud’ about what good mental health is, knowing who we are, coping with stress and enjoying life. It’s never too early or too late to enjoy good mental health,” she said.

The semicolon tattoo event held on Tuesday saw 74 tattoos given, and over $2,200 was raised for CMHA Weyburn.