A Manitoba Theatre for Young People (MTYP) production of a play featuring a teenager struggling with mental illness is being performed in Thompson May 8-9, in the midst of mental health awareness week.
Still/Falling by Vancouver playwright Rachel Aberle tells the story of 15-year-old Nina, who starts feeling off and struggles with anxiety and depression. She created the show to try to normalize talking about mental health and to provide a way for youth and young adults to address these topics.
“As we begin to acknowledge how common mental illness is, I hope that as a community we can begin to look out for each other, and create positive space for people who are struggling,” she said in an article on MTYP’s website.
In addition to Thompson, the Still/Falling MTYP tour includes stops in Swan Valley, The Pas, Flin Flon, Opaskwayak Cree Nation and Snow Lake. The play has been performed in 64 Manitoba high schools since November.
“I think the message will absolutely resonate with students here,” said Jacquie Mydynski-Arp, a high school in principal in Swan Valley, which MTYP is visiting for the first time. “The kids feel the same way as Nina. They feel like they can’t talk about what they’re feeling.”
“Mental health is something you work on,” said Sandra Garinger, a guidance counsellor at Hapnot Collegiate Institute in Flin Flon, which offers workshops, Addictions Foundation of Manitoba resources and health and safety nurses to assist students. “It takes time.”
The subject material of Still/Falling can be intense but the message that anyone can experience anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses regardless of their circumstances is important.
“We want the students who see Still/Falling to take away that they aren’t alone,” said MTYP artistic director Pablo Felices-Luna. “You’re allowed to feel sad, and you don’t need to keep it to yourself. It’s OK to ask for help.”
The MTYP Still/Falling tour is supported by the Richardson Foundation, Vale and Hudbay, the latter two having operations in three of the communities where the play was performed onstage.