Walk in Our Shoes

Actors perform for an audience while portraying teenagers with mental disorders including ADHD, anorexia nervosa, bipolar disorder and one who had an uncle with PTSD. The 35-minute musical play will be performed for 9- to 13-year-olds at Central Gaither today.

Fourth- to eighth-grade students at a handful of Sutter County schools will be learning about mental health today and tomorrow as actors present a 35-minute musical play at their schools.

The aim of the statewide program, "Walk In Our Shoes," is to help students understand a wide variety of mental health issues, including ADHD, anorexia nervosa and bipolar disorder, while trying to get rid of any stigma students may have.

The play follows four high school students, actors from B Street Theatre in Sacramento, who provide real-life stories and experiences of teens living with a mental health issue.

"We really like to empower youth to tell their stories to engage other youth," said Stephanie Welch, senior program manager for California Mental Health Services Authority. "I think that is the most effective way to break down the barriers of stigma."

"Walk In Our Shoes," presented the message to more than 18,000 students in 31 counties last year.

Welch is hoping to bring the message to even more students.

She said the program, county-funded by Proposition 63 dollars and in its second year, is helpful because after the students watch it, they aren't afraid to ask questions or to even ask for help.

The performance is followed by a 15-minute question and answer session in which students can ask the actors questions about mental health issues.

At today's performance at Central Gaither, school counselor Christi Miller will be on hand to assist and answer questions as well.

Miller said, like at all schools, some Central Gaither students struggle with mental health issues, which makes an event like this even more important.

"I'm excited to have this presented to our students," Miller said.

CONTACT David Bitton at 749-4796. Find him on Facebook at ADdbitton.

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