On Wednesday evening, the Scottish Storytelling Centre played host to a Storytelling for Wellbeing, an event for World Mental Health Day. The inspiring evening was held by Real Talk, a community storytelling project that trains people to craft and tell stories of their personal experiences with mental health. Regularly hosting storytelling workshops and events, they aim to empower people to share their experiences and destigmatise discussions about mental health, providing a wonderful opportunity to gain insight into individual experiences and participate in artful storytelling.
In concise but powerful ten-minute stories, four speakers shared glimpses of their lives with an enthralled audience in the warmth of the wood-panelled Storytelling Court. Each of the speakers told a very different story in a very different way. The unique styles and deliveries reflected their distinctive life paths, but the stories came together on the evening to impressively display the diversity of mental health experiences. The speakers crafted their stories while participating in two workshops that were run by Real Talk over eight days, where they were supported in both writing and reciting their tales. They then gathered in the Storytelling Court and, in front of 50 strangers, bravely stood up and told their stories.
Lily Asch, the founder and director of Real Talk, guided the speakers and assembled audience through the evening with warmth and ease. She asked that the audience hold a minute of quiet after each story, during which we were invited to take time to reflect on what we had heard. These moments highlighted the nature of storytelling as an art form that can engender a feeling of togetherness. The quiet pauses that punctuated the stories fostered a silent but strong connection between strangers.
After the stories were performed, the event progressed to breakout discussions. Here, the audience was able to connect with one another through their own reflections and experiences. These conversations were informal and provided space for people to participate as actively or passively as they wished. It was a testament to the supportive and inclusive environment that so many felt comfortable enough to share intimate details of their own journeys.
The evening concluded with a relaxed question-and-answer session. The audience were able to express their gratitude and admiration, and the speakers shared how helpful and healing the process had been for them. Amidst the individual details of different stories, people were able to find common ground and compassion. Real Talk and the Scottish Storytelling Centre ought to be commended for their skill in creating this space where people can share in the process of storytelling, whether they be a speaker or a listener.
Image: Bejoy Sanjeev