Can Drama Be An Aid To Wellbeing?

Posted at 09:37am on 30th May 2019

Oh, yes! BAFTA winning actress, Jessica Hynes, who starred in the BBC Comedy Drama W1A, with Hugh Bonneville, is campaigning for drama to be given greater prominence in schools. This, she believes, can boost mental health and wellbeing in young people. I'm convinced that she is right. Here's why.


In my latest book, a memoir titled Picked for a Purpose, I recall the effects of being born with a painful, but undiagnosed, disease. With my parents being told to ignore me, and leave me to cry because I was merely an 'attention-seeking child', I grew up having dreams of floating on a cloud, looking down at Mummy and Daddy standing at my grave, and wondering if I might then be loved. Then I'd wake up screaming. And be told off for wakening my baby sister. In a quote from the book, I write:

Whether my mother's piano performances stirred something within me I don't know. But perhaps because of my tummy problems and the way in which I continued to be known as a naughty girl, I found it advantageous to perform by taking on another persona. By creating a comedy character, and acting out a part. Using the metal stand for my father's removable ashtray as a walking stick, I hobbled around and became known as the Dirty Old Woman from the dirty old gutter. It at least had the merit of making everyone laugh. And, I hoped, went some way to reverse the negative perceptions that swirled around me.

Are children still encouraged in this way I wonder, recognising that while my dream of dying had its roots in my health issues, social media is seen as the culprit for much of the negative thought patterns that invade young people's minds today.

In the Reflections & Questions that follows each chapter, I observe:

I seemed to find poise only in taking on another persona. Mainly through acting, this was evident, also, when (at grammar school) I was called to the front of the class to engage in debate. It was not until decades later, in middle age, that I realised this was probably a form of self-defence. It was as if my unconscious reasoning might be summed up as: If the real me was not acceptable, perhaps a fictional character might be so?


Visiting Liskeard School and Community in Cornwall, Jessica Hynes goes on to say that 'drama is an essential aspect of children's development'. She is not advocating it as a career trajectory, but rightly states that it will have a powerful and positive effect in giving young people more confidence, and enabling them to 'deal with anxiety and help them to connect.'

I couldn't agree more! People often dispute the fact that I am an introvert on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, pointing out that I appear to have complete confidence when speaking to audiences in their hundreds, even thousands. The fact is, I am totally lacking in poise and self-assurance when one of a crowd, but being a speaker is equivalent to taking on another persona. Not only that, the audience has gathered in order to hear what you have to say. Which is quite different to having to summon up the courage to initiate conversation in the midst of a multitude.


So why is drama so sadly lacking in schools? In a BBC survey it appears that nine out of ten have had to cut back on arts and craft. Yet, as I go on to point out in my book:

The fact is that we are ALL picked for a purpose. It's simply a matter of learning what that is. We were created by our Creator God, in his image! We are thus beings of creativity - however that may manifest itself! The fruit we each of us bear may have different applications (apples may be eaten raw, cooked, or reduced to juice) but our purpose is the same: to fulfil the potential we've been given and thus glorify God.

Based on the parable of the farmer scattering his seed in Mark 4:3-8, the poem below sums up the theme of my book.

To order a copy, go to my book page where secure payment may be made via PayPal. All proceeds from sales are for The Prince's Trust, a charity which empowered nearly 60,000 young people last year.


A seed, a weed, is sown and grown,

This is your life, you know!

The soil, the toil till they're full blown

Bring happiness and woe.

The root, the shoot, the stem and leaf

The pain the rain of life,

The sun, your joy, gives way to grief

As struggles become rife.

Nipped in the bud you wonder why

Your battles are in vain,

But that's not true, it's not goodbye

Dark days may be a gain.

The buds, the floods, the bugs and weeds

Bring strength to leaf and stem

A flower appears and, on it, beads

Of sweetness, dear, Amen!

And with it come the bees to feed

On what you have to offer

Let not their need, nor even their greed

Hold back what you might proffer.

Then your blossom grows, and with it glows

A heart so full of love

That all around everyone knows

It must be from above.

The joy you bring makes others sing

You're picked for a purpose see!

The fruit you bear is for the King,

To whom all glory be.

Mel Menzies

Oct 2016

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