A TEENAGE actor from Horwich has written a play in a bid to tackle the stigma around depression.
Jack Hart, aged 18, describes his script — Puff — as an honest new play that throws its audience into the depths of the world of depression and self-harm.
The former Rivington and Blackrod High School pupil will also appear in the play, which is being staged as part of Manchester Pride Fringe Festival.
He said: “I’m really passionate about getting rid of the stigma around mental illness and the importance of talking about those things and how destructive it can be when people do not talk about what they are experiencing.
“I’ve had experience with depression and anxiety before.”
Mr Hart said his play had taken on added relevance in the wake of the death of comedian and actor Robin Williams, who took his own life last week.
The 63-year-old actor was found dead at his home in San Francisco last Monday and his wife has since released a statement to say he was suffering from the early stages of Parkinson's disease.
He said: “I think it’s really relevant at the moment, because of the whole Robin Williams thing.
“It seems to be a lot of people are rising up and saying change needs to happen.
“People need to talk about depression so that it does not get to that point.”
This is the first project Mr Hart has worked on with the Manchester-based theatre company Hysteria, which he founded.
He said: “This play can be intense at times, definitely, but I would suggest it’s more honest than anything. It’s an honest portrayal of one account of depression.”
Mr Hart said he was just 13 when he first experienced anxiety and depression and was inspired to write the play to break down barriers around the issue of mental illness.
He said: “Some people describe it as something that’s different from a physical illness whereas, in reality, it’s the same.
“I feel strongly that it should be treated the same as a physical illness. Just because you can’t see it and a person isn’t in a sling or on crutches, doesn’t mean it should be treated differently.”
The play features a cast of three, Jack Willis as the actor, Connor Calland as the artist and Mr Hart, who went to Pendleton College, Salford, and is set to attend drama school in London, as a theatre critic.
It is Mr Hart’s first full-length play, following on from his short play, Tickled Pink, which was staged at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, in 2012.
Puff is on at The Kings Arms, Bloom Street, Salford, on Thursday, August 28, and Friday, August 29, at 8pm.
For emotional support, call Samaritans’ 24-hour helpline on 08457 90 90 90.