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Laughter and mental health: a case study of Merv Neal

Merv Neal (CEO of Laughter Yoga Australia, Melbourne, Australia) a
Freda Gonot-Schoupinsky (CEO of Laughter Yoga Australia, Melbourne, Australia) b

Mental Health and Social Inclusion

ISSN: 2042-8308

Article publication date: 21 July 2022




The purpose of this paper is to engage with, and elicit insights from, Merv Neal, a laughter professional, on the use of laughter to benefit mental health.


This case study is presented in two sections: a biography of Merv Neal, followed by a ten-question interview with him.


Many insights on laughter are shared. Merv lists five benefits for mental health: laughter brings you into the present moment; laughter is a distraction; laughter breaks negative thought patterns; laughter silences the inner critical voice; and laughter brings joy.

Research limitations/implications

This is a personal narrative, albeit from someone who has professionally used laughter to support mental health issues for over 15 years.

Practical implications

Laughter can be beneficial to support mental health. More evidence for its impact on mental health is needed. Prescribing laughter has been largely overlooked as a way to harness laughter for mental health to date. Investigating how and when to prescribe laughter for mental health is recommended.

Social implications

Mental health issues can vary enormously, but loneliness is often involved. Encouraging social laughter is therefore important, including, surprisingly perhaps, by also practicing laughing alone. Laughter, accessible to all, presents itself as a free and easy way to support community mental health.


To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first case study and interview with a long-standing laughter professional on the topic of laughter and mental health.



Neal, M. and Gonot-Schoupinsky, F. (2022), "Laughter and mental health: a case study of Merv Neal", Mental Health and Social Inclusion, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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