Almost 40 years ago Shirley E Mason was given a label – one she refused to accept as she felt it would hinder her path through society.

The Jamaican-born grandmother has gone on to become well-known in north London and beyond as a performer, writer, resident poet at Millfield Theatre, founder of The Burning Flame Foundation Project and manager of Front Face Inclusive Theatre.

Now 60 she finally feels ready to share that label as part of a show she has written, Collateral Insanity, which examines social attitudes to contemporary mental health.

“If I had accepted the label that had been given when I was 20-something I would probably have been in a mental hospital all my life,“ says the Edmonton resident.

“As it is I’ve been out in the world, raised three wonderful children, was married for 20 years, founded a theatre company, been a performer, a poet, been to Edinburgh, done all sorts of things because I refused to accept the label given to me at the time which was schizophrenia.“

Collateral Insanity uses music, poetry, drama and movement and is the third in a series of plays Millfield Theatre commissioned her to write. The first, Who Feels It Knows It, was a one-woman autobiographical play and the second, Utopia, was a complete flight of fancy – and has, without a doubt, been the hardest.

Not only has Shirley spent four years researching the complex issue, but it is also the first time she will tell her own mental health story publicly – with her own daughter Roweena acting it out as part of the chorus.

“I haven’t done it before because I don’t know what people will say and think,“ says the mother-of-three.

“If I was in a corner screaming then they would think ‘oh I get that’, but because I’m out and about doing and achieving people don’t get it. They think ‘what does she mean she’s got a problem?’

“It’s quite scary, very scary actually for me as I’ve never come out like this. But I can’t write a play, knowing I’m writing from my own personal experience, and not say it. To me that feels hypocritical.“

She finally found a way to bring her ideas to the stage when she heard the music of Will Smith, a young musician who has mental health issues caused by problems during his birth.

“Trying to work out how to write this from a truthful point of view and an artistic one and having statistics in there – it was hard, I must have started it five or six times,“ explains Shirley.

“But once I connected to Will’s music and saw it on stage it made it easier because my story became a story within a story and I wasn’t just being self indulgent.“

The play stars Rod Kralik as Will and through the character of psychologist Stellar (Daisy Simpson) brings in other case studies, and the role of Dee (Josephine Rollins) examines how we deal with mental health issues.

The show has been funded by Enfield Residents’ Priority Fund and includes actors who have dealt with mental health problems themselves, with a counsellor brought in to help them explore the issues.

Explaining the title Shirley says: “We do feel it’s something that involves so many different agencies and issues. It is a collateral thing.

“If you looked at society and sorted out the poverty and racism and not enough money on the table or elders not having enough money for electricity – if these things were sorted out there would be less so called insanity I’m sure of it.“

Attitudes have changed since she started writing the show says the founder member of Face Front Inclusive Theatre in Edmonton Green, who performs under the name Cuban Redd, but there is still a huge stigma attached to mental health issues which she hopes to tackle.

“If you see someone in a wheelchair or with a bandaged arm immediately your empathic senses kick in, but with mental health it’s really a hidden thing and really difficult to open up the awareness when people can’t see it.“

She adds: “The tagline for the show is ‘no shame, no more’ and it’s come to mean quite a bit.

“I hope awareness will be raised and grow and that somehow it will encourage people to begin to build a resilience in them. Resilience enables you to bounce or maybe crawl back from that place that all of us go to sometimes – just some of us go deeper than others.“

Dugdale Centre, Thomas Hardy House, London Road, Enfield, April 23 and 24, 7.45pm. Details: 020 8807 6680,