Can we learn about mental health...from Shakespeare?


Mental health may not be the first thing you think of when you conjure up the writings of The Bard, but cast your minds back to when you first read Shakespeare, and you might just see his characters in a completely different light.

King Lear’s madness, Jacques’ melancholy, Timon’s cursing, Macbeth’s tortured visions and the obsessive nature of Leontes all ring through, revealing a writer who was clearly fascinated (and familiar) with mental health.

The so-called ‘tragedies’ were full of mentally-anguished characters, from the suicidal Ophelia, to the decidedly post traumatic stress suffering Lady Macbeth (who conspired in the murder Banquo, and slipped into madness in the pursuit of power).

But surprising perhaps, is that all these years late, there is a modern-day tragedy unfolding amongst British workplaces, and it’s one that is still around incidences of mental health.

In the last few years, mental health problems (including stress) have overtaken muscular-skeletal issues to become the number one reason for absence at work. A government study examining 58,700 ‘Fit Notes’ between 2011-13 concluded “mild-to-moderate mental health disorders are a growing cause of sickness absence” – which is a damning appraisal of the state of the modern workplace. In fact while traditional coughs and colds still the main reason for short-term absence, mental health problems are the leading causes of long-term illness and absence. Once staff are off work for longer than six months, statistics show they are very unlikely to ever return to work again.

To help dramatise the depressingly slow rate of progress since the 16th century, attendees to Reward Live’s unique session – To be or not to be...Affected by Mental Health Issues in 2015’ – can hear the chilling talents of Shakespearean actor Tom Mallaburn, as he performs three famous pieces demonstrating mental health issues from the Strafford-Upon-Avon writer’s plays.

He will be joined by Jane Cattermole and Carole Keith, general manager and director respectively of ‘Minding Your Business’ who will reveal how many of the problems faced by characters in Shakespeare’s plays are as relevant to staff today, some 400 years later.

For a dramatic and thought-provoking inquiry into mental wellbeing causes, issues and potential solutions, this is a session visitors to Reward Live 2015 cannot afford to miss.

When: 14th May

Where: Reward Live, Edgbaston, Birmingham

What time: 12.45pm

For the rest of the two-day Reward Live conference programme, CLICK HERE