A mental health forum with Ruby Wax and Judith Owen

A mental health forum with Ruby Wax and Judith Owen

By Charlotte Fantelli

Ruby Wax, Judith Owen, Marjorie Wallace and Camila Batmanghelidjh

Quite a line up? Well I, and 150 others, were treated to an audience with these wonderful ladies at The Mernier Chocolate Factory London on June 16th. 

Above is a video of Judith and Ruby during the Losing it tour.

Ruby and Judith's sell-out show 'Losing it' hosted a mental health forum or 'drop in' if you will and I, along with our reporter Rebecca Coxon, 'dropped in' to experience it for ourselves.

Now, I am not a big theatre goer – I’m sure you can imagine that a dislike of crowds, people I don't know, germs… (The list goes on)… Could impede theatre trips! But I was determined to experience first hand what these formidable forces in mental health were doing.

Pioneers

Our hosts were: Ruby Wax, who is best known for her brash and sometimes outrageous comedy and her ‘Losing It’ partner Judith Owen, known for her stunning voice. Both of whom have history of mental illness.

They were joined by mental health hero, activist, author and campaigner Marjorie Wallace, CEO of SANE and Camila Batmangheldjh, founder of Kids Company.

Life after child abuse and  trauma

After introductions, Camila Batmanghelidjh whose Kids Company helps over 550,000 children every year, treated us to a talk about child abuse and recovering from trauma. I say treat, which you may find an unusual use of words, but believe me it was. The way Camila spoke was moving and insightful, giving new understanding to the subject.

As Camila was talking, something happened to me. If I am honest (and a little conceited) I thought I knew a great deal about child abuse and its effects; having been through a fair amount myself as a child and teenager, then studying psychology, and now owning a mental health magazine and website. I thought I was quite ‘in the know’!

I listened to her words and I sat there dumbstruck. It was as if I was hearing this information for the first time, it was like she was talking just to me, saying ‘you are not alone and it is OK to feel the way you do.’

It was soon obvious that she had the same effect on so many of the audience as the sobs could be heard across the room.

Open forum

The floor was opened and the audience began to speak and pose questions to the panel. This is when the real magic started.

I don’t know how they did it, perhaps it was a combination of the host’s honesty, the shared understanding, or just the vast need for the forum to talk? But the intimacy of this forum opened the floodgates, giving 150 people permission to express themselves, and boy did they!

Tales of abuse, admissions of mental illness, I say admissions only in as much as people were opening up as if for the first time and publically outing themselves with a sense of relief.

There were tears and sadness, but there was also a real sense of togetherness, an audience of people enthusiastic to share with each other and this really gave such a sense of support.

For every question there was an opportunity for discussion, for every tale of woe a helpful SANE representative offered further support.

The hour and a half passed in a flash and an audience which felt lighter having aired its worries, were given drinks and cake and allowed to mingle, as did the hosts, each giving time to as many as they could.

I have never been in an environment like it. It was intense and strange, but incredibly therapeutic. To be sat in the centre of London (a place where a stranger won’t give you the time of day) with people openly sharing their experiences, was just remarkable.

I give Ruby and Judith (and all the organizers) 10/10 for offering a forum like this, it is obviously so very needed and I hope that by showing this need, there might be something that will fill the void now their tour has moved on.

You can catch the next leg of the Losing It tour and these wonderful forums in Edinburgh in August, see www.rubywaxlosingit.co.uk for more details. My advice is don’t miss it! 

Video: YouTube, Photographs from top: Charlotte Fantelli and Ruby Wax, Camila Batmanghelidjh, Judith Owen, Marjorie Wallace. Courtesy of SANE.

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