Young people from Leeds CAMHS & West Yorkshire Playhouse help tackle Mental Health stigma

Zoetrope cast. Photography by Anthony Robling

The cast of groundbreaking new play Zoetrope (Picture credit: Anthony Robling)

A moving play which tackles young people’s mental health has been given added authenticity by patients from Leeds Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).  

Zoetrope opens at West Yorkshire Playhouse in November and follows the journey of seven very different youngsters as they navigate their way through mental health difficulties.

In preparation for their performance, Zoetrope’s cast have been in discussion with young people from Leeds Community Healthcare’s CAMHS service. CAMHS provides services for young people under 18 when mental health issues get in the way of daily life. 

Since July this year CAMHS young people and staff have met the cast, read through scripts, and developed an understanding of what goes into putting on a production, as well as sharing their own insights and experiences.

Vandhna Sharma, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Practitioner, said: “Being involved has given young people a real sense of confidence and helped them realise how their knowledge and experience made them the experts.

“Our CAMHS young people have loved learning about theatre production and were touched by how polite and considerate the Zoetrope cast were. In particular when they shared their experiences of mental health and the support they received, which helped provide authenticity and depth to the Zoetrope characters.

“The audience get to see young people navigate their way through mental health difficulties and support processes from their perspective, as well as understand the impact it has on every area of their life.”

The play serves as a timely reminder of why raising the profile of mental health is so crucial, coming after World Mental Health Day on October 10.

CAMHS staff will run a stall on show nights with information about CAMHS, additional support services available in Leeds, and ways to maintain good mental health.

West Yorkshire Playhouse Youth Theatre Director, and director of Zoetrope, Gemma Woffinden said: “At West Yorkshire Playhouse we strive to make theatre that gives young people a platform to express their ideas about the world with real integrity.

“By working with CAMHS our young actors have gained an insight into the processes, job roles and most importantly first hand experiences of the challenges faced by young people suffering with mental health issues.

“It has been a truly valuable experience working with the CAMHS staff and patients in rehearsals.”

You can watch Zoetrope at West Yorkshire Playhouse between Thursday November 2 and Saturday November 4.

Times and ticket details can be found here. You can find out how to access support from Leeds CAMHS by visiting the website here. Follow CAMHS on Facebook: Leeds CAMHS.