Media Mention:

Documentary on suicide prevention screens Thursday at MSU Billings

(republished from the Billings Gazette)

By Jaci Webb

The documentary film, “Let’s Talk Miles City,” featuring an original theater production created and performed by Miles City high school students, will be shown Thursday at Petro Theatre at Montana State University Billings.

Light hors d’oeuvres and beverages will be served at 6 p.m., followed by the film and a talk-back session with suicide prevention counselors. The suggested donation is $25.

The screening kicks off a suicide-prevention campaign that will use media and arts workshops to reach teenagers in Billings.

“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 Health Equity Foundation and MSU Billings. GHEF is a nonprofit philanthropic organization dedicated to making tangible improvements in health care and health education. The foundation is based in Miles City.

Miriam Veltman, MSU Billings theater director and former student, spent 10 weeks working with Miles City students during the summer of 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 this fall.

“Let’s Talk Billings” provides an opportunity for local youths to communicate about difficult issues through multiple art forms, said 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,” Keller said.

To create the play, teens chose materials relevant to the cause of suicide prevention and wrote about the issue. 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 their own lives and 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.