Comedy 'could help troops' mental health' | Says comic John Ryan's academic paper

Comedy 'could help troops' mental health'

Says comic John Ryan's academic paper

Comedian John Ryan has had an academic paper published – after taking his stand-up show on mental health to the troops.

Ryan is one of seven co-authors of 'Modifying attitudes to mental health using comedy as a delivery medium' which has been published in Journal of Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.

It follows his work taking stand-up shows – called 'a novel stigma-reduction method' in the paper – to armed forces as part of a drive to persuade military personnel to seek help for mental health issues.

News of the paper comes as the charity Combat Stress reports a 'significant increase' in the number of Afghanistan veterans seeking help – a statistic ascribed to growing awareness of the reality of psychological trauma, and the decreasing stigma surrounding it. The MoD has also today launched a Veterans Mental Heath app to help ex-service personnel, as part of Mental Health Awareness Week.

Ryan said he was 'chuffed' that his research was published. He has been performing shows about mental health since his 2009 show Cracking Up, which he developed with the NHS. 'With the comedy scene the way it is at the moment, you have to have a niche,' Ryan said. 'And it's a great to be able to help in this way and tackle taboos.'

For the new research paper, the military audience were quizzed, before and after Ryan's show – with a small proportion interviewed again three months later, and asked about potential discrimination, mental health knowledge and coping behaviours.

The study concluded that 'inclusion of mental health material did not appear to detract from show satisfaction'.

Immediately after the show, the troops reported significantly less stigmatisation, demonstrated that they knew more about the issues. Three months later the study said, 'neither difference was maintained'. It added: 'Personnel were statistically significantly more likely to discuss mental health and to advise others about mental health' – but suggested that this was related to factors other than the show.

The paper concluded: 'In armed forces personnel, embedding mental health awareness within a comedy show format had a short-term positive effect upon military stigmatisation regarding mental health.'

'Comedy could potentially form a component of a comprehensive stigma-reduction strategy.'

Published: 12 May 2014

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