Our theme this year is making and breaking friends and I have spent the last week looking at the entries for our annual video Festival. A lot of them had things in common. There was many a track of “I’ll Be there for You” by the Rembrandts (the “Friends” theme song) and several “You Will Be Found” from Dear Evan Hansen.
I saw kids walking in on their first day at a new school or being alone in a crowd or having no friends. You feel their distress in these situations. I was brought up in a time when you were told to buck your ideas up and stop feeling sorry for yourself. People took a pride in taking things on the chin; having a stiff upper lip they called it. Crying was for babies. I don’t think that cuts any ice today.
If kids are hurting, feeling sad or have trouble eating, sleeping we don’t want them to suffer in silence do we? Hopefully we’ve moved on from the stiff upper lip and can be there for them, open a conversation – or merely smile and ask if they are ok.
It’s Children’s Mental Health Week this week and it’s a sobering thought that according to the Mental Health Foundation 20% of adolescents may experience a mental health problem in any given year. Naturally I believe that theatre work can help young people with their mental health. It’s positives include building resilience, self-esteem, and confidence, encouraging empathy and shedding inhibitions along the way. But more – I think that engaging in acting, dancing, and singing truly takes them somewhere else. At the very least it is a distraction – time out of normal life. The chance to feel something intensive and be surrounded by others.
And in those videos there was always someone who turned to them and wanted to help – who held out a helping hand. We all know we are alone in the world but it’s through others that we learn to be happy – that little connection of hope that surges in the heart. I wish our work could reach more children and young people because I know it’s so healthy for them to share the togetherness of the room. It’s a safe place for them to explore feelings and feel a little less alone.