Young actor praised for work on mental health

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A young Glenavy actor has turned his struggle with depression into a positive project helping hundreds of others suffering from mental health issues.

Peter Heenan, who has just won the Creative & Cultural Industry Skills Award for his work, set up the PostPieces campaign to break the silence surrounding mental health and offer support in a creative, communal setting.

“People feel they need to hide depression and other mental health issues and they struggle on all alone. I was too embarrassed to tell people how I felt and reach out for help when at my worst. We need to overcome that, to get help and to feel that it’s ok to talk about it,” the 22-year-old Glenavy man explained.

“As a young actor, I particularly felt that I needed to present this confident, strong front to show that I could handle the rejection that is a normal part of my career. But I realised this was having a detrimental effect.

“I came home from Cardiff over an Easter break to realise that we had a total Mental Health crisis here in Northern Ireland, and when I heard about a 14-year-old boy taking his own life, I knew I had to do something about it.”

He set up PostPieces just over a year ago, after seeing the Tinderbox Theatre Company’s production of The Man Who Fell to Pieces, which gave him the push to use art to help people express how they feel about their mental health. They have worked with people aged from 13 to 70 through creative workshops where they can share how they feel and create a piece of art together.

“The project brings a personal element to what can be a very clinical process of seeking help. In the workshops people can talk about what has helped them, and that support can be incredibly beneficial,” he added.