Ashton Brown: mental health, the stage and me
I suffer social anxiety, am prone to panic attacks and feelings of derealisation, but the stage has always been a safe place for me. The confidence I feel and present onstage isn't a fallacy but it is a version of myself that only gets to exist when I am performing.
Though I may seem confident and strong onstage, that isn't always representative of who I am in day-to-day moments. I'm not suggesting the way I present myself as a comedian is a character or an illusion - it is very much who I am. But this confident version of myself primarily exists when I am performing.
As artists we are sensitive to the world around us. I believe we are prone to mental illness because creativity is something that is in its essence something very emotional. Creatives need to allow themselves to be in touch with themselves emotionally and critically to create. Perhaps we are drawn to creativity because of this sensitivity, or perhaps it is the other way round.
Creatives need to allow themselves to be in touch with themselves emotionally and critically to create. Perhaps we are drawn to creativity because of this sensitivity, or perhaps it is the other way round.
Conversations about mental health are so important to me and are now something that I integrate to every aspect of performances, comedic or otherwise. When I was first diagnosed with depression I felt so incredibly isolated and frightened. If these conversations can walk us in the direction of greater understanding and exposure of mental health I hope that other people might not find themselves feeling so alone in the future. If we can begin to destigmatise something that is so prevalent in our society then hopefully we are taking the steps in the right direction not only towards greater understanding of mental illness but also to providing those around us with the support and acceptance they need in order to get through.
The suicide statistics in New Zealand are shockingly high and if these conversations are making even the smallest amount of positive change then they are conversation that we drastically need to keep having.
The importance of a show like Inner Dialogue cannot be overstated. It gives performers a chance to share not just the side of themselves that they are comfortable to joke about, but perhaps the more challenging side of themselves that we often hide behind a layer of comedy. By standing on stage and talking honestly about our struggles we break down the barrier that often exists between performer and audience in a way that encourages others to share their own struggles with people they trust.
Ashton Brown is a writer, performer, comedian, and actor, who is featured in the line-up of this Thursday’s Inner Dialogue, presented by the NZ Comedy Trust and hosted by I Am Hope ambassador Mike King. Inner Dialogue is part of the 2018 NZ International Comedy Festival with Best Foods Mayo, on now until 20 May. For the full line-up of shows in the Festival head to comedyfestival.co.nz