August 27, 2013
Regional project tackles issues surrounding teen suicide
“Let’s Talk Miles City” documentary showcase will be held Thursday, Sept. 5 in Petro Theatre on the University campus
Michelle Strain, MSU Billings Department of Communication & Theatre, 657-2178
Mathew Eisen, Global Health Equity Foundation, 619-283-0480
Aaron Clingingsmith, University Relations, 657-2269
MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — A documentary featuring an original theatre production created and performed by Miles City high school students kicks off an innovative suicide-prevention campaign that will use media and arts workshops to reach teenagers in Billings.
The screening of Let’s Talk Miles City begins at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 5, at Petro Theatre on the University campus. The documentary follows a group of teenagers as they reach out to their peers to address the topics of suicide and depression.
"The play has opened a door in the community for creative outlets of personal expression for young people in Miles City," said Michelle Strain, on-site project coordinator. "It has been very exciting to watch the growth of the participants and this project, and we look forward to replicating it here."
The documentary focuses on one of a number of media workshops provided to teenagers by the Global Healthy Equity Foundation (GHEF) and MSU Billings. GHEF is a non-profit philanthropic organization dedicated to making tangible improvements in healthcare and health education. The Foundation is based in Miles City.
MSUB theater director and former student, Miriam Veltman, spent 10 weeks working with Miles City young people in Summer 2012. The resulting live performance provided the community with an alternative form of expression for feelings of suicide and depression. A similar project is planned for Billings teenagers in Fall 2013.
“Let’s Talk Billings provides a unique opportunity for young people to communicate about difficult issues through multiple art forms,” said Dr. Sarah N. Keller, a researcher at MSU-Billings and GHEF affiliate. “Using creative media to empower youth to speak out about obstacles they face has historically been shown to bring about positive community change.”
To create the play, teens chose materials relevant to the cause of suicide prevention and also wrote their own works about an issue that is ravaging the entire state. As a team, the teenagers and Veltman created a collaborative piece with an overall message that focuses on becoming more aware, speaking up, seeking help or intervening to save your life and the lives of others. The play is being performed in high schools, middle schools and youth centers throughout Eastern Montana, and the teens seek to inspire other communities through their performance.
The Let’s Talk Billings campaign is dedicated to preventing suicide among teens by recreating the Miles City project in a way that is conducive to the needs of Billings' teens. The goals are to: 1) get people in the community more comfortable talking about mental health issues; and 2) provide help for those who are depressed and possibly suicidal. A website with resources for Eastern Montana residents went live on Sept. 8, 2012: www.letstalkmilescity.com and is maintained by the Miles City Local Advisory Council of mental health professionals.
Admission to the Let's Talk Miles City documentary will be a suggested donation of $25.00. Light hors d'oeuvres and beverages will be served at 6:00 pm. After the screening of the documentary, various speakers will talk about local suicide prevention efforts.
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