Khoal Marks knows what it's like to deal with mental-health issues and not know where to turn for help.
In 2007, the Burnaby woman lost her mother suddenly, and soon after found herself sinking into a deep despair.
"It really, really devastated me, and it just turned my whole world upside down," she said. "And it was after that that I couldn't function anymore; I couldn't do my job anymore. I didn't want to talk to people."
She was later diagnosed with clinical depression, among other mental health issues. Since then, she has begun the journey back towards health and discovered ways to give back to others in the mental health community.
One of these has been in the form of an acting role in a new play about mental illness.
The play - maladjusted - is being produced by Theatre for Living (formerly Headlines Theatre), directed by David Diamond, with a cast of six mental health patients and caregivers.
The interactive performance merges actors' performances with audience participation to engage public dialogue about the state of mental health-care in British Columbia.
The play works to answer questions about what needs to be done to better support patient-centered care, to ensure safety for patients and caregivers, and how to sustain a better mental health-care system.
The resulting feedback from the production will be used to create a community action report, to be forwarded to the Mental Health Commission of Canada and The Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health, to inform policy development.
For Marks, this is her first time in an acting role, though she has performed with Stand Up For Mental Health, doing comedy since 2007.
She says the experience with Theatre For Living has been valuable.
"It's been really fantastic," she said. "And it's a good thing that (the rehearsal) has been a total of eight weeks long, because it's taken me up until maybe just last week to really grasp what I'm doing and my role in this."
In the play, Marks plays a woman called Mia Williams who is struggling in her relationship with her daughter, who has mental-health issues.
In reality, Marks has also struggled in her relationship with her own daughter.
She said the workshops and rehearsals for this role have offered her a chance to face her past and proven to be a cathartic outlet, since her character's journey parallels her own.
Marks said she hopes the process and the performances will help the wider community see what can be done to improve care and support for mental-health patients.
"I knew that I wanted to do more work within the mental health community because it's just really affected me on a personal level so much," she said. "There's just got to be more done to bring awareness to people that there's nothing really wrong with us, in the sense that we're still OK people."
Maladjusted runs Tuesdays through Sundays at 8 p.m. until March 24 at the Firehall Arts Centre, at 280 E. Cordova St. in Vancouver.
A live, interactive global webcast will be made of the final performance.
Tickets are $12 plus service charges, available through the box office, 604-689-0926, or at www.firehallartscentre.ca.