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Laughter is the best medicine Add to ...

Recovery comes in many forms for those suffering from mental health issues. Drugs are a popular and effective choice, but some also find healing in alternative forms of therapy. Comedian Big Daddy Tazz uses a combination of drugs, cognitive behaviour therapy and comedy.

However not everyone agrees that laughter is the best medicine. June Conway-Beeby, a long-time activist with the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario whose son, Matthew, committed suicide because of mental illness, says Tazz's jokes leave her cold. "Laughing at the symptoms of serious illness seems irrational to me, maybe because of the horror of the disease behind the actions,"

David Granirer, founder of Stand Up for Mental Health, a group that teaches people with severe mental illness to become stand-up comics, says he is conscious of the criticism, but he insists that the comedy is respectful, not harmful.

"We never, ever belittle people with mental illness," he says. "People don't make fun of others, they talk about their own experiences as a way of building confidence and fighting stigma."

Mr. Granirer, who suffers from severe depression, says comedy is an effective educational tool. "A lot of people don't want to go to an academic presentation on mental health because it's a downer. After our shows, they feel hopeful, and they've learned something too."

David Granirer was online to take your questions on how comedy can help mental health patients. You can read a the discussion by clicking on the large box below.

David Granirer is a counsellor, stand-up comic, speaker, and author of The Happy Neurotic: How Fear and Angst Can Lead To Happiness and Success. He has taught stand-up comedy to recovering drug addicts and cancer patients, and is the founder of Stand Up For Mental Health, a project teaching stand-up comedy to people with mental illness. His work is featured in the VOICE Award winning documentary Cracking Up. David also gives laughter in the workplace presentations to hundreds of organizations across North America, helping them use humour to decrease stress, increase wellness, and cope with change. www.standupformentalhealth.com

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