Women’s History Month is a time to celebrate influential women in history and our everyday lives. But these women, like all of us, can struggle and tire under the pressure of life’s difficulties.
That’s the message in the hit Broadway musical Next To Normal now in Miami.
In an age where mental health issues continue to be pushed to the forefront, the show continues those conversations about mothers and women to show that struggling with mental health is normal.
Next to Normal hit the Broadway stage in 2009. It has since toured across the United States and is now here in Miami with the South Florida-born non-profit theater company Zoetic Stage.
The rock musical centers around Diana Goodman, a mother and wife struggling with bipolar disorder and delusional episodes while supporting a suburban nuclear family. Local actress Jeni Hacker, who is a mother herself, stars as Diana.
“I know what it’s like as a mother to want to be there for your kids full-time, but maybe with a part-time ministry,” she said.
The play brings up themes of loss, trauma and grief.
“While it’s called Next to Normal, it normalized the struggles that we go through that women might think they’re going through alone or it’s specific to them,” she said. “But really, I think a lot of people go through the struggles that Diana is going through on the show.”
Licensed social worker and clinical therapist Victoria Gray told NBC 6 she’s grateful the arts are being used to break down misconceptions about mental illness: the stereotyping of mental illness as rare, or that it means something negative about a person.
“Women’s mental health is extremely important not only for women, but also for families, communities and society,” she said. “In fact what we know from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is that more than 50% of Americans in their lifetime will be diagnosed with a mental illness.”
Her message is the same as the show’s, it’s okay to not be okay. Gray says that between careers, parenting and relationships, the societal pressure to succeed can be a unique burden for women.
So how can society help?
“It’s hard to be a mother and work and find a place in the many countries we live in as a woman,” said Jeni. “It’s a lot of pressure that society puts on us, but also what we put on ourselves. We want to be really great at work and at home, but we don’t hold ourselves back enough.”
‘Next to Normal’ runs until April 9 at the Adrianne Arsht Center.
If you are struggling with mental health issues or even just need someone to talk to, you can call the National Mental Health Crisis Line at 988.
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