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So I went to review my second Fringe show Friday night for mindshareScarred for Life at The Lab, Queen’s Theatre.

With the headline Man falls off bike, becomes star, Josh Belperio relays the time he flew over the handlebars of his bicycle, ruptured his spleen and nearly bled to death through a series of comical and clever songs on the piano, reminiscent of Tim Minchin.

Josh began by taking us back to when he was little, where he was held back in ‘fun skills’ because of his slight touch of autism, before finding his place at the piano and then falling from it (literally), which won him $500 in Australia’s Funniest Home Videos courtesy of his mum filming it. His first scar came at 15 from running through a plate glass door, severing the tendon and artery, with thankfully no nerve damage.

The day of his accident he was anxious and rushing to the Festival Theatre to workshop ‘The Unmentionable Musical’ as he calls it, approached a roundabout too fast, as did a car from his right. He slammed on his brakes. The bike stopped, he didn’t. And as he gets to his feet he feels strange, as if his body’s trying to process something, all this to terse music.

At home his parents (both doctors) put him to bed and monitor him, until Josh wakes feeling strange again. His mother takes one look at him and rushes him to hospital, not before Josh collapses and asks his boyfriend Matthew am I dying? A CT scan reveals a ruptured spleen, which requires immediate surgery and as the mask comes down, all Josh can think of is all the music he has left to write.

Having lost 2 litres of blood, Josh is transferred to ICU, which is the title of a highly entertaining song through the eyes of the ICU nurse, followed by ‘Sample pack of information for families of deceased patients – spare copies’ where Josh summarises each pamphlet inside. My favourite song was ‘Watching me pee into a bottle’, a tender exchange between Josh and Matthew, in which love and affection grows like my urinal collection.

Towards the end Josh reveals his eight-inch medical marvel (his scar), an angry looking welt, which he thinks ugly, but to Matthew it’s beautiful because it represents how his life was saved. The mental health aspect of the show is anxiety and how Josh manages it – present before his accident and escalating after – to enable him to live the life he wants, to not be scared, to make peace with his scar and most importantly, to get back on his bike. Josh is a talented artist, and gave a funny and moving performance through theatrical song. It’s a show I’d recommend.

As a Fringe reviewer of shows with a mental health theme for mindshare, I went along to my first one Monday night; It’s Not Easy Being Green, a cabaret at the Chateaux Apollo.

Written and performed by Karen Lee Roberts accompanied by Mr Sunshine (aka Jeff Usher) on keys, it was an insight into a struggle with mental wellness (not illness) via a series of scenes, opening with Christmas Eve where everything was unravelling. Karen, in character, compared her state of mind to algae – green and always on edge, waiting to be devoured by something bigger – and talked about how depression is still taboo, asking can’t people bear to hear the truth??

Each scene explored acceptable conversation versus reality – the dinner party where she declared the food far better than what she’d received in hospital when mentally unstable; the photos of her wedding in which professionals expertly covered her self-harming scars; and the change in her behaviour when she came off her meds, the dark places she visited trapped by her myriads of faults and flaws.

And each snapshot was framed in song – ‘Problem solver’ and ‘Chameleon’ to name a few, the latter advising to keep your skin, don’t rearrange, a poignant message. Karen had an amazing voice pitched with feeling, all songs self-written to be made into a CD shortly. Then my husband became part of the show being invited on stage to play Daniel, the guy she’d met on Tinder, an amusing interlude to say the least!

The hour offered a raw, honest account of a person stripped bare – juggling demons, meds and their inevitable side effects with healthy eating, exercise and positive action – and revisited the Christmas Eve scene, a clever bookend, where the tree in the distance no longer represented something to hang from, but life itself.

I’m not a big fan of cabaret, so this wasn’t a show I chose to review, but because of its ability to leap beyond comfy mental health, I’m glad I did. Unfortunately the last performance was yesterday (it ran for three nights only), but if it returns next year I’d recommend the experience. Until then I’ll leave you with the closing line – it’s not easy being green, but it’s better than being blue.     

No, not quite, as this all took place in the latter half of last year, but the new one prompted me to look back on the changes I’d made, the impact they’ve had and thought I’d share them with you.

It actually all started the year before, so 2016, when I went to the doctors to discuss the side-effects of the medication I was on for my endometriosis (I believed they were making me short-tempered, moody, etc.), however, she explained that due to the low dosage of each of them, it was unlikely they were the cause.

She then asked me if anything had changed in my life recently, to which I replied I now work part time and use Fridays to focus on my writing, had joined three poetry groups, started an online course and was finalising my second collection. She pointed out that in actual fact I work full time and had taken on additional commitments, and I thought, well yes, if you put it like that (isn’t it funny how it takes someone else to point out these things and the different perceptions of writing as work?)

Anyway, it got me thinking, and I concluded that I only get stressed, ratty, etc. when I try to do too much, and the only person putting pressure on me, was me. For example, I like to exercise three times a week and if I didn’t achieve this, I’d feel guilty. One of the days I exercised was a Friday followed by the whole beauty regime (you know what I mean), doing some washing, tidying, making appointments, responding to emails, etc. so that before I knew it, it was nearly lunchtime. What was I doing…this is my writing day!

Still on the topic of exercise, I used to drive into work on the days I did it because I thought it quicker, so typically Mondays and Wednesdays to complement the Friday. Driving into the city from where we live at peak time is extremely frustrating (yes, even here). A 16km trip can take over an hour. And so I’d rush in, struggle to find a park, work, rush home, exercise, cook dinner, eat and then have little energy to do anything else before bed.

So, over the months that followed, I gradually made changes. I now exercise on a Saturday morning instead of a Friday, freeing up the latter to do what I should be doing, poetry.

I no longer drive into work. I cycle to the train station some ten minutes from our house (so exercise in itself albeit small), store my bike in the locker I rent and take the train in, where I can read, write, check messages, listen to music, even nap if it’s quiet enough.

We’ve started using Hello Fresh, a meal service which delivers the ingredients to make three meals a week to our door, which in turn avoids that age-old question “what are we having for dinner tonight?!” and eating the same thing.

I’ve also negotiated to work from home every Wednesday because with access to systems, I can do my job anywhere. This, I feel, has been the biggest change and is helping me to manage my endometriosis (i.e. less travel, less rush, less stress), which appears to be flaring up again annoyingly.

Small changes have made a significant impact. Coupled with taking things easier and not trying to do everything at once (because who is chasing me for it – no one!) has made me a happier, less stressed, more balanced person (cue sigh of relief from husband). So, my message to you? It’s your life, make of it the best you can.

Just want to share an insightful post by Worcestershire Poet Laureate Nina Lewis, in which she shares some thoughts and poems on mental health (one of which I penned myself)

World Mental Health Day in Poetry


Today is World Mental Health Day, and this is an initiative led by Mental Health Australia to challenge the perception of mental health issues and encourage us all to view them in a positive light, in a bid to reduce stigma and enable more people to seek support.



Mental Health Australia aims to:

promote mentally healthy communities, educate Australians on mental health issues, conduct research into mental health and reform Australia’s mental health system.

And their Do you see what I see? is a clever concept, using strong visuals to highlight that we all see things differently and should work together to find common ground.

Mental health is defined by the World Health Organization as:

a state of well-being in which every individual realises their own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to their community.

As Beyond Blue states, mental health is about wellness rather than illness.

For me, mental health is a delicate thing to be balanced and weighted against whatever life throws at it. Sometimes it’s tough and exhausting, so I write to help mine and travel, taking time out when I need to.

So, make a mental health promise to yourself today; it’s just as important as the physical one.


Just like you


She tries to fit in

pulls at her mouth to make it a smile

blinks her eyes hard to clear out the clouds.


She even pretends she’s alive

puts a bird in her heart so it chirps with a beat.


But she can’t seem to shut up her sadness

it speaks when she thinks that she is.


Copyright © J V Birch 2013

is today!  This is all about people connecting in a meaningful way to help anyone struggling with life’s ups and downs, which I’m sure we can all relate to at one time or another.

R U OK? is a suicide prevention charity in Australia, and its goals are simple and things we can all do to:

  • boost our confidence to meaningfully connect
  • nurture our sense of responsibility to regularly connect and support others
  • strengthen our sense of belonging because we know people are there for us
  • be relevant, strong and dynamic

Suicide, like mental health, is a delicate thing not often discussed, so take the time to connect by asking someone R U OK? And not just today, make time every day.

Today marks the start of Mental Health Week, running until Saturday 15 October with World Mental Health Day tomorrow.

OYM Logo

The week is about shining the light on mental health by educating and engaging people through interactive events across the state, including community festivals, art exhibitions, music, theatre and seminars.

One such event is the Festival of Now, coordinated by the Mental Health Coalition of South Australia in Light Square on Friday 14 October, to bring the mental health community together, showcase the creativity used in the healing journey and reduce the stigma still associated with this multi-faceted condition.

Two of my poems, ‘Beautiful thinking‘ and ‘Session time‘, have been shortlisted for a Mindshare Poetry Award, which I’m thrilled about, but unfortunately I can’t attend the event because I’ll be interstate.  But I’ll be sure to check in after to catch a roundup of the day’s program.

So get involved wherever and however you can to help promote mental health, and keep yours healthy.

This is today, so why not take some time to check in on your own mental health and see how you’re doing? In aid of this, I went along to the Festival of Now in Rundle Park yesterday where the weather was absolutely gorgeous.

2015-10-09 15.28.56 

The festival celebrates mental health and well being in South Australia by bringing the community together through a range of activities and a reminder of the services available to them. So the Mental Health Coalition of South Australia was joined by Centacare, Mental Illness Fellowship South Australia (MIFSA), who also provided some fab beats, Headspace and Uniting Communities for people to talk about their sexuality and gender identity. And there was face painting, juggling, cooking, a magician, animals, art, planting and of course, the Mindshare Poetry Awards.

2015-10-09 14.13.26

This slot was hosted by Geoff Goodfellow and Melbourne-based poet Sandy Jeffs, both of whom shared some of their own work with a focus on mental health and the challenges it can pose (here you can read Sandy’s The Madwoman in this Poem). Alas, I was not fortunate enough to win an award despite having both a short and long poem shortlisted in the ‘Emerging Poet’ category. However, the wonderful Rachael Mead swept the board in the ‘Established Poet’ category, winning both the short and long poem award, so a huge congratulations to Rachael, who found out by me messaging her immediately after!



It was a good day, with a strong sense of community and togetherness to promote mental health wellness, because we should talk about this and openly share, no one should suffer alone.  So here’s to a mentally healthy day, and for every one that follows  🙂

Mental Health Week will run from Sunday 4th to Saturday 10th October with World Mental Health Day celebrated on 10th October.

OYM Logo

Coordinated by the Mental Health Coalition of South Australia, the week aims to educate and engage people about mental health through interactive events across the state, including an official launch, community festivals, art exhibitions, music, theatre and seminars. The ABC will once again highlight mental health through its Mental As production, a series of television, radio and online programs to get the conversations happening.

The Festival of Now, to help celebrate World Mental Health Day, will be held in Rundle Park, Adelaide on Friday 9th October, bringing the mental health community together to showcase the creativity used in the healing journey and reduce the stigma still associated with this multi-faceted condition.

And I have been fortunate enough to have been shortlisted for a Mindshare poetry award, with winners announced at the festival and invited on stage to share their poems with the crowd.

So please mark this important week in your diaries and join in wherever you can to help promote a positive approach to mental health and if needed, maybe even improve your own.   🙂

I recently found out about a project very close to my heart through Abegail Morley’s The Poetry Shed. To help promote Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK from 11-17 May, Sarah James will be using her blog to host With You In Mind. Sarah James

Sarah is an inspirational poet whose work has been widely published in a variety of journals, anthologies and newspapers, as well as in solo collections. The first, Into the Yell, was published by Circaidy Gregory Press in 2010 and won third prize in the International Rubery Book Awards the following year.   Sarah’s second collection, Be[yond], was published by Knives, Forks and Spoons Press in 2013, who have also published her latest book, The Magnetic Diaries, earlier this year.

Like countless others, Sarah has her own stories of mental health that she shares on her site and through her work, something I can relate to as I do the same in my own (try it, it can be very cathartic!).  So having been involved in the last couple of mindshare poetry projects to promote Australia’s Mental Health Week in October, I contacted Sarah to offer my support for her project and any help to promote it. I was then thrilled to be asked by Sarah to use my poetry film, Black dog, in an advance posting of her project.

So keep an eye on Sarah’s site over the coming week to read some fantastic poetry from the likes of Helen Ivory, Carolyn Jess-Cooke, Abegail Morley and Catherine Smith, all of whom have generously donated some of their work to this very worthy cause.