On Nov. 1 at 7 p.m., a special stage show titled “Eric & Elliot” will be performed at the Hidden Valley High School Auditorium. The production is a collaborative effort between the Roanoke Children’s Theatre and the Prevention Council of Roanoke County with the support of Roanoke County Public Schools. This special performance is a response to the growing community concern about depression and suicide among teens. Parents, educators and members of the mental health community will be on hand to answer questions and discuss concerns following the performance.
“We know from data gathered in our Youth Risk Behavior Survey, that the play’s content is a relevant one,” said Nancy Hans, director of the Prevention Council.
“The play investigates the nature of teen depression and suicide; in a stage setting, these issues become more visceral, relatable and accessible to students and their families than any focus group or panel discussion could be,” Hans added.
In 2010, 30.3 percent of Roanoke County high school youth reported that experienced chronic sadness or hopelessness for more than two consecutive weeks; additionally, 13.7 percent reported that they had contemplated committing suicide, and of those that had attempted and failed, only 3.5 percent had received or asked for help. This data is based on the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, administered every two years to all sixth- through 12th-grade Roanoke County students.
The Prevention Council of Roanoke County is dedicated to promoting the healthy development of youth in the county community; that means addressing the issues that threaten their success. Talking about depression, isolation and hopelessness will help ensure that teens and parents know about coping skills and resources that are available.
The partnership between the Prevention Council and RCT began in 2010, with a production of the “Secret Life of Girls” — a stage show that focused on the social issue of female bullying and peer relationships. The launch of that particular project could not have been more timely: Roanoke County Public Schools were in the midst of addressing concerns of bullying in middle and high schools. Then in 2011, the two nonprofits tackled the issues of underage drinking and adult alcohol abuse through the stage show Wrecked.
“There can be no more telling example of the social and cultural impact of RCT’s past projects on the County’s youth and family life, than that of the 2011’s showcase, ‘Wrecked.’ In that particular project, the Prevention Council coordinated talk backs sessions with parents and educators following the performances,” Hans said.
With the support of the school system, the Prevention Council and RCT surveyed those students attending the plays, to evaluate Wrecked’s overall impact. Between the 2010 and 2011 productions, more than 4,000 students, and more than 400 adults/parents have experienced an RCT production.
– Submitted by Nancy M. Hans