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Trust theatre company in Watford wins mental health innovation award

02 May 18 - 01 May 19

A theatre company created by Hertfordshire Partnership University Foundation NHS Trust (HPFT) drama therapist Gerald Maiello and called “May Contain Nuts” has won the Guardian Award for Innovation in Mental Health Services at the 2018 Advancing Healthcare Awards (AHA).

The company is made up of service users who’ve completed their therapy provided by HPFT, but wish to continue using drama to understand their own experiences, as well as to spread awareness about mental illness and treatment.

Research has concluded that the arts can help keep people well. Members of May Contain Nuts have described the numerous benefits around the support, friendship and sense of achievement they get from being a member.

Based in Watford, the company offers thought-provoking workshops and productions for schools, universities and other organisations. They explore sensitive and often painful subjects including self-harm, what it’s like to live with suicidal thoughts and various personality disorders which are inspired by their real-life experiences.

Success due to service users commitment, bravery and honesty

Gerald Maiello, drama therapist at Watford Assessment and Therapy Services said: “I started the theatre company as a continuation of the drama therapy process.  A key aim of the group was to further our exploration of mental illness and help educate a wider audience in the subject.

“The success of the project lies in the commitment of the service users – the company members to be open and honest about their experiences of mental illness and mental health care.  Their bravery and creativity has sustained the project and served to underpin its integrity and continuing aim to challenge preconceived ideas of mental illness.  It has also been supported very well by HPFT, University of Hertfordshire, Roehampton University and actor, theatre director, and playwright Sir Mark Rylance who have all contributed to its development over the past few years.”

HPFT Chief executive Tom Cahill said: “This award recognises the hard work of an inspiring group of people. They’re using their experiences in a positive way through drama to educate others, reducing the stigma around mental health and helping themselves in their recovery at the same time – very well deserved and well done.” 

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