Forty local educators, social workers, nonprofit leaders and others serving youth recently visited New York City to see the award-winning musical “Dear Evan Hansen” on Broadway.
The musical tells the story of a teenage social group’s unraveling after the suicide of one of its members. The daylong event brought together adults from many youth-supporting local institutions to build a wider network to support youth in the region.
Participants included representatives from Talbot County Public Schools, the YMCA, Talbot Mentors, For All Seasons Inc., The Country School, Sts. Peter and Paul School, Chesapeake Multicultural Resource Center, Channel Marker, Chesapeake College, Eastern Shore Psychological Services, CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) and the Talbot County deputy state’s attorney. Dock Street Foundation sponsored the trip.
“Sometimes it’s not as easy as ‘it’s OK, things will get better.’ This musical reminds us from start to finish that everyone feels alone at some point, that we all struggle from time to time,” said Beth Anne Langrell, executive director of For All Seasons, a behavioral health and rape crisis center. “‘Dear Evan Hansen’ reminds us that our words, actions and who we are to each other can make a difference.
“This musical intersects every aspect of our culture, social media, peer pressure, depression, anxiety and the reality that relationships are hard work. It also reminds us that lies have consequences.”
Participants said the musical drove home the powerful impact one person can have on the life of a troubled teenager. Traveling together for the day allowed for discussions about how to address youth mental health and suicide in Talbot County comprehensively.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US, with 144,793 Americans dying by suicide each year. And for every suicide, 25 attempts are made.
Suicide prevention efforts have increased in recent years across Maryland and across the Mid-Shore. In the five counties of the Mid-Shore (Kent, Queen Anne’s, Talbot, Dorchester and Caroline) in 2014, almost 15 percent of middle school students and 13 percent of high school students reported they seriously considered suicide at some point during the school year. Thirteen percent of those high school students went so far as to make a plan to kill themselves. The highest numbers of students reporting feeling suicidal are students who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual.
“Having a chance to increase community awareness and to increase agency collaboration related to child and adolescent mental health needs and resources in Talbot County offers an opportunity to possibly change the trajectory of a young life,” said Robert Schmidt, behavior specialist at Talbot County Public Schools and a nationally known youth suicide expert. “This was an opportunity for community partners working with youth to increase skill development and understanding of the turbulent times of adolescence.”
Since the show, several of the organizations have been working together to build a community-wide campaign to address the needs of parents and youth surrounding stress and pressures of social media, depression, anxiety and suicide prevention. The new campaign will be launched before the start of the 2018-2019 school year.
For more information about this production and read the lyrics, visit