University of Louisville graduate student Jocelyn Matsuo is dealing with that problem in an unconventional way. She’s written a play, “Wrong with Me,” to help people learn more about mental illness.
Matsuo, a Los Angeles playwright who is pursuing a master’s degree in fine arts, spent more than a year researching, writing and directing the production. Five other UofL students are portraying characters in the play.
“I’m hoping people who see this will learn something about what it’s like to be depressed or bipolar and how that can affect your life and your relationships,” she said.
Although the play addresses serious themes such as medication and suicide, it also contains plenty of humor, Matsuo said.
“I think people in the audience will be able to identify with what they’re seeing on the stage and even have fun.”
Matsuo sat in on support group sessions for months and listened to the stories of “a lot of people who struggle every day with mental illness” before tackling her script, she said. She also consulted frequently with psychiatrist Gordon Strauss, who helped her keep the drama grounded in fact.
Strauss is a UofL psychiatry and behavioral sciences professor affiliated with UofL’s Campus Health Services office. He said he hopes the play will encourage people who need help to step forward.
“People with mental illness are often reluctant to tell someone when they’re depressed or have thoughts of suicide,” Strauss said. “Seeing these things brought to life on an open stage shows that it’s OK to talk about your feelings.”
The Louisville chapter of Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, a peer-support group for people with mood disorders, funded the play and worked closely with Matsuo on its development, said chapter president Michael Kuhl.
“We’re always trying to educate people about mental health,” Kuhl said. “We thought commissioning a play about mental health would engage people in a much more meaningful way than sitting at a six-foot table and handing out brochures.”
Matsuo, Strauss and Kuhl will be on hand to chat with members of the audience at “talk back” sessions immediately after each performance.
“Wrong with Me” is open to the public but is not suitable for young children. Performances are scheduled Feb. 9, 10 and 11 at 8 p.m., in UofL’s Thrust Theatre, 2314 S. Floyd St. Admission is free and no tickets are required.