GREELEY, Colo. (CBS4) – Youth mental health needs, including anxiety, depression and suicide, are rising in Colorado and Kaiser Permanente wants to do more about it. That’s why the health organization brought a new educational traveling play to Colorado. “Ghosted” addresses these topics in a real way, depicting high school students as they navigate everyday scenarios.
“We’re really hoping to move the needle and make an impact on this topic,” Brian Harper, with Kaiser Permanente’s Arts Integrated Resources told CBS4’s Mekialaya White.
The production features four teens: Syd, Andre, Liam and Kayla. Syd is managing clinically diagnosed anxiety, Andre is struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts, Liam is acting out at school in anger because of a tumultuous home life, and Kayla is managing secondary stress while trying to take care of others around her.
Greeley High School students experienced the hour-long production on Thursday morning, followed by a discussion about how it applied to their own lives. The impact was immediate.
“I think that any problem that you think is a problem that should be talked about, even if you don’t feel like it’s major. It can still turn into something bad, so I think it doesn’t matter who you are, at least talk to someone because talking can do a lot,” said 9th grader Kiana Maldonado, who felt empowered by it all. “I feel like if there’s ever anybody who needs help, I can be the person to help them.”
Maldonado says the faculty’s decision to bring “Ghosted” to her school spoke volumes.
“Our teachers really care about us and they want us to be in the best environment and feel safe and wanted.”
Ninth grade school counselor Mitch Johnson agrees.
“We get to know these students and their families on a really, really close basis. So to give the education to these students as far as how to get mental health support is huge, not only for them but for their families to make sure they’re in a good place. It makes our job a little bit easier,” Johnson said.
Harper says hearing the students weigh in after the production and seeing the change in them is priceless.
“You can prepare for a show, but there’s nothing like putting it in front of a student audience, but what I love is seeing how it works. I don’t want to do theater for theater’s sake. I want people to say, ‘That meant something to me.’ Teachers have told us that students have shared stories with them that they wouldn’t have shared if they hadn’t seen the show. And they felt safe enough and open enough to start that conversation. So if we can be the gateway for the conversation and change one life, we feel like this work is all worth it.”
The Kaiser Permanente production is free and runs through Nov. 22. To learn how to bring it to your school, head here: about.kaiserpermanente.org.