MTYP’S HIGH SCHOOL TOUR FINISHES IN NORTHERN MANITOBA
In 2016, Maclean’s published an article about mental illness in Manitoba. The article referenced a report that said rates of depression in Manitoba are almost double the national average, and are even higher in Winnipeg’s inner-city and the province’s north.
This May, MTYP concludes its school tour of Still/Falling in northern Manitoba. Still/Falling tells the story of fifteen-year-old Nina, who lives a great life, but suddenly Nina starts feeling… off. She finds herself slipping into a dark reality she cannot understand, let alone articulate to the people around her. Nina tries to come to terms with what it means to struggle with anxiety and depression, and to rise above it with as much strength, and as few scars, as possible.
MTYP will be performing Still/Falling at Margaret Babour Collegiate (The Pas), Hapnot Collegiate (Flin Flon), Beatrice Wilson Health Centre (Opaskwayak), Swan Valley Regional (Swan River), as well as Thompson and Snow Lake. Still/Falling has performed in 64 high schools across Manitoba since November.
This is MTYP’s first time traveling to Swan River. The school’s principal says that the high school hasn’t had an outside production in the past decade. “I think the message will absolutely resonate with the students here,” said Jacquie Mydynski-Arp, Principal at Swan Valley Regional High School. “The kids feel the same way as Nina (in the play). They feel like they can’t talk about what they’re feeling.”
In 2018, the Government of Manitoba’s Mental Health and Addictions Strategy reported that “The prevalence of mood and anxiety disorders was significantly related to income in urban areas, with much higher prevalence among residents of lower income areas.” The “Opaskwayak Cree Nation Community Needs Assessment Project” conducted focus groups and surveyed students in grades 7 to 12 and community adults, and found that over 50% of adults in the community were diagnosed with depression (27.1%) or anxiety (23.1%).
Rachel Aberle, the Vancouver-based playwright for Still/Falling, says that she created the show with the intention of normalizing conversations around mental health, and to offer avenues for youth and young adults to connect with one another on these topics. “As we begin to acknowledge how common mental illness is, I hope that as a community we can begin to look out for each other, and create positive space for people who are struggling,” she said.
Hapnot Collegiate in Flin Flon, one of the northern locations where the Still/Falling tour will perform, provides multiple mental health resources for students. They have Sources of Strength workshops, an Everyone Matters program, AFM – Addictions Foundation Manitoba resources, health and safety nurses, and a team of open and caring teachers and staff.
“Mental health is something you work on. It takes time,” said Sandra Garinger, Hapnot’s Guidance Counsellor.
While some of the themes presented in Still/Falling are very intense, they are also incredibly important. Nina lives a happy, ordinary life, but is overcome by depression and anxiety. The key message here is that any person can experience feelings of anxiety or depression, regardless of their circumstances.
“We want the students who see Still/Falling to takeaway that they aren’t alone,” says MTYP Artistic Director, Pablo Felices-Luna. “You’re allowed to feel sad, and you don’t need to keep it to yourself. It’s okay to ask for help.”
MTYP is grateful for the financial funding from key supporters who value the power of arts and culture in Manitoba. Special thanks to The Richardson Foundation, Vale and Hudbay for making it possible for MTYP to tour Still/Falling across the province, including northern communities where Vale and Hudbay have operations.