Promoting Social Acceptance of Mentally Disabled People through Art

According to a study conducted by the World Health Organisation, an estimated 25 percent of the worldwide population is affected by a mental or neurological disorder at some point in their lives. Although the mental disorder is one of the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide, stigma and discrimination often make difficulties worse and prevent people from finding a purpose in life. Thus, it is common that people with disabilities are unable to support themselves throughout their lives and become dependent on social support schemes. The main organiser of the project, the Baltazar Theatre Company, is one of the very few artistic companies in the V4 region that employs and focuses on people with mental disabilities. In other words, all of the actors employed are salaried, thus, they can financially support their parents, relatives, or themselves.

The project organised by the Baltazar Theatre Foundation in cooperation with The Lublin Theatretherapy Foundation and City theatre – Theatre from the Passage, n.p.o., aimed to demonstrate that every single person, even people with mental disabilities, are born with a talent to develop. As organisers of the project claim, discovering this talent and creating an opportunity to express it contributes to the social acceptance of people with special needs. Hence, art was chosen as an area to work in with mentally challenged people – the fundamental ingredient of any artistic performance is the language of emotions, which people with special needs often speak perfectly. The project connected actors with mental disabilities from Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland and conducted three artistic workshops in addition to the final performance available to a wide, international audience.

The workshops aimed to introduce the methods of art education developed by Baltazar Theatre and to select participants for the joint final performance, which emphasised the concept of promoting social acceptance of mentally disabled people through art – an area where the mentally challenged possess remarkable skills, although not yet fully explored in the V4 region. As a consequence of the Covid pandemic, the final performance took place online and connected Hungarian, Slovak, and Polish actors via Zoom.

The Baltazar Theatre Company has accumulated more than 20 years of experience in working with people with down syndrome and other mental disabilities and achieved admirable results both in terms of artistic performance as well as in providing the mentally disabled actors a stable framework to look after themselves and their families. The two project partners, The Lublin Theatretherapy Foundation and the Banska Bystrica based Theatre from the Passage, follow the same philosophy as Baltazar Theatre Company: discovering, developing, and showcasing the talent in the art of mentally challenged people, thus facilitating social appreciation and acceptance of the mentally disabled.