Truth Be Told show takes hopeful approach to mental illness

Peninsula residents own experiences leavened with humour

Vancouver-based Victoria Maxwell was an experienced film and television actor who had worked alongside such talents as John Travolta, David Duchovny and Johnny Depp.

But after experiencing several psychoses – breaks with reality – in the late 1980s and eraly `90s, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and anxiety.

For some, such an obstacle might have been insurmountable, but Maxwell decided to take a proactive approach to recovery, fusing art and mental health advocacy.

For the last 15 years she has been what she describes as “a wellness warrior” – successfully reinventing herself as a performing artist, workshop leader and keynote speaker who employs her comedic sensibility to increase awareness, transform negative stigma and inspire others to improve their mental well-being.

Over the past three months, in collaboration with Peace Arch Hospital Foundation, she has been helping Semiahmoo Peninsula residents voice their own truth about the ups and downs of living with mental illness.

Those experiences will be shared this Sunday at 7 p.m. in a one-of-a-kind stage show called The Truth Be Told Project, at the Coast Capital Playhouse (1532 Johnston Rd.)

Community mental health occupational therapist Leah Kasinsky – who has been coordinating the show – notes that it’s a by-donation performance that involves some 10 members of the community in a series of storytelling monologues, interspersed with segments by Maxwell herself.

She explained that it’s an outgrowth of a PAHF show of several years ago at the Coast Capital Playhouse – Stand Up For Mental Health – which played before a sold-out house.

Such shows, she believes, are critical in breaking down stereotypes about mental illness – and she notes the project has also been a trial run for Maxwell, who is developing a program for working with groups.

“There’s still a lot of stigma attached to mental illness,” she says. “The stories you hear tend to be about people not doing well.”

But in recent years, she said, there has been a shift in perspective in the medical system.

“We’ve moved to a ‘recovery’ model, in which a person isn’t defined by their illness, and expectations are based on changing and learning and growing – where there’s hope,” she said.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean that people’s illnesses won’t be part of their life, but it does mean that they can get help that is more meaningful to them.”

Kasinsky said Maxwell’s own warm and funny approach to her own experiences has been matched by a willingness, as director and mentor, to “help everyone find their own voice – they don’t all sound like her.”

It was easy finding people to participate in the program – the only real requirement was that they indentified as being on a recovery journey, Kasinsky said – but she added that she has been amazed by the courage and creativity they have revealed, under Maxwell’s guidance, during the process of developing their monologues.

“Sharing their personal stories is very brave,” she noted. “It’s been an honour for me to have been able to witness people taking risks, and I’m gratified that they have been willing to do this.”

While there are sad elements to the show, there is also a lot of humour as well, she noted.

“It’s not all serious – there are a lot of silly things that happen in life, and it’s good to get up there and laugh about it together.”

Just Posted

South Surrey church members ‘praying for accused mother… for the whole process’

Lisa Batstone’s second-degree murder trial continues this week in B.C. Supreme Court

City will ask Fraser Health to remove pay parking at SMH, Surrey councillor says

Surrey’s new council has already made parking free on neighbouring city streets

Health and Technology District breaks ground on new building

City Centre 3 is the third of eight planned buildings: Lark Group

Spawning salmon returning to North Delta’s Cougar Creek

It’s early in the season, but the streamkeepers are hopeful it could be a good year for returns

Former Surrey gymnast shining on rugby pitch for Bayside

An injury forced Brady Reeleder to switch sports, and now he’s thriving at his new endeavour

Winter weather hits parts of Canada

As some parts of the country brace for cold, parts of B.C. remain warmer than 10 C

Giants serve up major defeat to Pats at Langley Events Centre

On the ice, Vancouver G-Men wrap up home stand with a 10-4 win over Regina Friday night.

Canada’s health system commendable overall but barriers to care remain: UN

The United Nations says Canada’s health care system is “commendable” overall but vulnerable groups still face barriers to quality care.

Unique technology gives children with special needs more independent play

UVic’s CanAssist refined seven prototypes aided by $1.5M government contribution

Kelly Ellard’s boyfriend has statutory release revoked

Darwin Duane Dorozan had several parole infractions that found him ‘unmanageable’

New chair of Metro Vancouver board is Burnaby councillor

The 40-person board is made up of elected officials from 21 cities and one First Nation

Doctor’s note shouldn’t be required to prove you’re sick: poll

70% of Canadians oppose allowing employers to make you get a sick note

German-born B.C. man warns against a ‘yes’ vote on proportional representation

Agassiz realtor Freddy Marks says PR in his home country shows party elites can never be voted out

Most Read