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Changing attitudes to mental illness through music

Changing attitudes to mental illness through music

Changing people’s attitudes to mental illness through music is what drives singer songwriter Johnny Matteson. Johnny, who has experience of bipolar disorder, is one of the artists performing at the Mad Pride ™ concert, being held next week as part of the Newtown Community Festival of the Arts.

The discrimination and stigma experienced by people with mental illness is of particular concern to him. Johnny describes stigma and discrimination as harmful and unnecessary parts of mental illness, and refers to the Mason Inquiry of 1996, which identified stigma and discrimination as a major barrier to recovery.

“The shadow of stigma is always present, and can be bigger than the illness itself”, he says.

Johnny has released two albums – Johnny Matteson, and Psychiatric Survivor.

“Through Psychiatric Survivor, I hope to show with an audible experience what it feels like to be in the psychiatric system. All the emotions experienced; the anger, the hopelessness, the hope; I always wanted to bring hope.”

Johnny says his music has been key factor in his recovery.

Alongside his music career, Johnny works at the Mental Health Foundation as a mental health promoter specialising in creative arts. He has presented many workshops for the national Like Minds campaign, helping others better understand mental illness from the perspective of someone who has been there.

Johnny also features in a video, produced by the Mental Health Foundation. John’s Story is aimed at schools and communities to understand the experience of people with mental illness.

The Mad Pride concert is on Wednesday 9th March, at 7pm, at the Newtown Community Hall, located at the corner of Rintoul and Colombo Streets in Wellington.

Copies of Johnny’s CDs and video resource are available from the Mental Health Foundation by phoning 09 300 7030, emailing, or visiting

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