It’s been said that laughter is the best medicine, and one of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s mental health team is proving exactly that.
Sandra Johnston (36) is a cognitive behavioural therapist with the STEPS primary care mental health team in south-east Glasgow based at Govanhill Workspace, and is also well-known on the Scottish comedy stand-up circuit.
A past winner of the Wilkinson’s Sword Cutting Edge of Comedy prize at the Edinburgh Festival, she has performed all over Scotland.
As part of the first Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival, Sandra is joining other leading stand-ups such as Raymond Mearns, the Reverend Obadiah Steppenwolk III, David Kay, Gary Little, at a special gig at The Loft, Ashton Lane, Glasgow, on Wednesday, October 10.
The “Laff Yer Heid Aff” event will also see the launch of a new DVD which uses a mix of humour and health advice from a Consultant Clinical Psychologist, a Toryglen GP and a Professor of General Practice about stress/anxiety/depression, plus interviews with people discussing their own experiences.
It also features Raymond Hearns and another well-known face from the comedy circuit, Des McLean, who’s character Ronny Connolly is a combination of comedian/actors Billy Connolly and Ronnie Corbett.
Sandra said: “The DVD gives advice about stress control, using comedy to help get the message across.
“It’s for people who have suffered from stress and they can watch former clients of the service talking about how it affected them and how they dealt with it.”
The DVD was produced by “Blindside Productions” and will be distributed throughout the south east of Glasgow.
Sandra began her own stand-up career five years ago: “I’d been to the ‘Stand’ comedy club and I thought I’d really like to do this.
“I spoke to one of the comedians and he recommended classes, and I had to prepare five minutes of material as homework.
“I found it was something I really enjoyed and I started playing gigs around Scotland, including appearing twice at the Edinburgh Festival.”
She’s careful not to use material based on her daytime job: “It’s based mainly on relationships, dieting and slagging off men!”
Introducing humour into her job has been beneficial to patients: “It’s a complete myth that coming to therapy is all doom and gloom.
“It’s more about a person making a change in their life, and I find using humour in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy gets the point across a little bit quicker.
“In fact I encourage patients to use humour.”
Jim White, STEPS’ Team Leader and a consultant clinical psychologist, said:
‘At any one time, one in five of us has a problem with our mental health – usually a mix of anxiety and depression.
“The DVD aims to show how common these problems are, how they affect us and, more importantly, what you can do to get back on top.”
Information about NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s STEPS service and stress control classes, log on to www.glasgowsteps.com.
Images of Sandra available on request, and interviews can be arranged by contacting Susan Carden, Communications Officer, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, tel. 0141 201 4429/305 0305.
Notes to Editors: The first Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival opened on October 4 and runs until October 19.
To view the full programme of events, log on to www.mhfestival.com.