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Academic explores why it’s good to laugh

Steve McCarthy-Grunwald with mental health festival organising team Charlotte Pearce and Emma Fitch

Black, self-deprecating, sarcastic, slapstick; humour comes in many forms.

But using humour in situations of severe human stress, such as coping with mental health episodes, is a relatively unknown field.

“Affiliative and self-enhancing humour can be potentially beneficial whereas aggressive and self-defeating humour is potentially detrimental,” Steve McCarthy-Grunwald, senior lecturer Mental Health Nursing Studies at the University of Cumbria, said. “Using appropriate levels of humour on a daily basis is a valuable asset in nursing practice and can help to develop the therapeutic relationship and build resilience.”

Steve will be exploring the use of humour in mental health at the Royal College of Nursing’s 24th annual Mental Health Nurse Academics conference to be held in Manchester.

He will talk about the benefits of using appropriate levels of humour which he says can lead to an improved immune system, the development of better cardiac and respiratory function, can neutralise stress hormones and result in the natural release of endorphins.

Steve’s conference appearance comes just weeks before a mental health festival he is jointly organising is due to be held at the University of Cumbria’s Lancaster campus.

Among the workshops, theatre shows and music will be a performance by comedian Rob Gee who worked for twelve years as a registered nurse in psychiatric units around England, Scotland and Australia. His work has been adapted by NHS Trust’s for training staff.

“Throughout my work in mental health I’ve long held the view that, used in the right way and in the right situation, humour can certainly help patients and I’m hoping to write a more detailed paper after the conference which will spark more interest in this area of research,” Steve said.

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