Depression: A Laughing Matter?  The secret STIGMA lurking in my subconscious 

Fifty percent of the room had had it, or something similar, but nobody wanted to admit it.

What happens when you captivate the attention a big bar full of strangers, get them all laughing, then suddenly challenge them without warning  to “put your hand up if you’ve ever had depression?”

I was about put my hand up and let out a gratifying “yes!” but something held me back.  My shoulder twitched upwards, then down, then back up again as I quickly glanced around the packed bar to see if anyone else was going to admit it.

That something was what we psychologists call a Negative Automatic Thought (“NAT”),  a fear lurking in the subconscious that responds in a split-second with a voice that quickly snaps “If you admit it they’ll shame you!” “don’t stand out!” “you can’t risk it!”  As someone who is not afraid to go against the grain, to stand out, or to talk about mental health – why did I hesitate to put my hand up?

There are a number psychological theories that come to mind to explain our sudden impulse to freeze up put on the spot.  Put simply however, that initial impulse is a risk protection mechanism that is always looking out for – and jumping in when it perceives – any chance of a threat.  Showing weakness or risking embarrassment are perceived as dangers by the subconscious mind.

The subconscious jumps in with emotion to warn us automatically and almost instantly, before we get a chance to rationally evaluate whether the fear is really necessary.   Most of the time, our fears are exaggerated, simplistic and unhelpful. The aim is to employ our conscious, logical mind to evaluate and talk us out of those fears.

Comedian Mad Mike Bennett’s little social experiment reminded me that I, even as a mental health professional,  had my own bit of mental health stigma built-in. This made me consider how scared we still are as a society to talk about our mental health.

Best International Street Performer / (In)famous Australian Comedian “Mad Mike” Bennett, and his fiance –physical (and mental) fitness f trainer Donna Lee Perfect-  know only too well about the mental health stigma that almost killed him.

Mad Mike  caught the attention of PSYCoaching Psychology Solutions for the clever and courageous way in which he works awareness of depression into a comedy routine in a way that destigmatises it and challenges the audiences to speak up.  And that’s not an easy job for a man whose job is it is to keep people laughing all night.

Mike and Donna know a thing or two about trauma and its related depression.  They have each survived immense heart-breaking personal tragedies, in part by speaking up about depression and refusing to buy into the Stigma about it. But mainly by teaching us to adults and kids to laugh. I attended a few of their adult shows and kids shows and I laughed my pants off.

Check out some links below, and stay tuned for an amazing interview with a comedian at the top of his game who explains how depression really is a laughing matter.


Adult Only –

Family friendly –

Depression Pinky Promise –

Mad Mike Police Academy Stunt Show –

Dream Guards –


Did you know that depression or anxiety are normal, but that 50 per cent of us will experience clinical levels at some point in our lifetime? Do you need help with your own depression? Did you know that Medicare might cover most of the cost? Did you know that you get counselling over Skype?


Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions? Comment below and feel free to share.



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