Alex Gatherer has managed the almost impossible; he has written and staged a completely new and ambitious musical about young people’s experience of mental illness.  Alex started writing his musical four years ago and continued to write his musical whilst working for SNAP Cymru, through a Jobs Growth Wales opportunity. Judging by the response and the standing ovations, the audience found the musical heart breaking and breath taking.

Alex’s musical Battle Scars opens with Lily Prewitt, still struggling to adjust following the loss of her mother, finding herself sectioned into a mental health unit for teenagers. As her life begins to spiral out of control, she relies on the relationships she makes with her fellow inpatients to ultimately decide her future.

Alex has successfully  written and directed an original musical about pain, grief and the struggle of moving on which was brilliantly presented by Cardiff University’s Act One drama society and set to an energetic rock/pop score, featuring over twenty original songs.  The mix of songs, ranged between the raw and emotional to the uplifting finale sung by all the cast.  The score was honest and dealt sensitively with issues around relationships and mental health.  Alex has an acute understanding of the issues involved and managed to portray his understanding through his sensitive and honest score.

Some 850,000 children and young people in the UK have mental health problems; three children in every classroom has a diagnosable mental health disorder (and that’s just the ones that have been diagnosed.) One in five young adults show signs of an eating disorder and one in 12 deliberately harm themselves (and 25,000 of them are hospitalised each year because of this) and nearly 80,000 children and young people suffer from severe depression. (http://www.youngminds.org.uk/)

Many children and young people are isolated, unhappy, have eating disorders and self-harm; some even commit suicide. There is still a huge stigma around mental health which means children and young people are not getting the support they need. To attempt to cover these issues is certainly a challenge.  However, Alex successfully portrays many of these stories in his musical.  Battle Scars is a deeply moving yet funny show; many in the audience were obviously moved, laughing and weeping throughout the play. The show was beautifully acted and sung and was a very impressive achievement. The commitment of the cast, musicians and crew was evident throughout.

Alex is undoubtable talented and many aspects of his musical is as good as anything seen on much larger stages. Congratulations one and all, everyone in SNAP Cymru is immeasurably proud of Alex and we will be eagerly following his future successes!

For a trailer see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1wUqVnSW_4

For further advice and information on mental health issues:

www.youngminds.org.uk

http://www.gofal.org.uk/

http://www.childline.org.uk  – 0800 1111

www.thesite.org  – is the online guide to life for 16-25 year-olds in the UK. Non-judgmental support and information on everything from sex and exam stress to debt and drugs.

http://www.b-eat.co.uk/get-help/online-community/young-people/ – Eating Disorders support

https://www.selfharm.co.uk/get/ – Self-harm support

www.depressioninteenagers.co.uk  – An interactive site with resources for young people with depression using self-help ideas and relaxation techniques

www.studentdepression.org – Site contains excellent information and help for anyone feeling depressed