Mental health PSAs offer acting opportunities to students

Sadie Wyatt

Last fall, Wilson students were presented with an opportunity like no other: to star in a Public Service Announcement (PSA) that would be aired nationwide. It came to Wilson through Karen Harris, the current theatre director at Wilson.

The PSA was produced by Boys Town, a national organization that works to help those suffering from abuse, addiction, abandonment, or violence. 

Their mission statement is “Changing the way America cares for children and families.” They do this through education, hotlines, and fundraising. 

The goal of the PSA was to start a campaign about teen suicide prevention. The auditions were mainly advertised to those involved with Rent, the fall musical last year, since production was occurring at the same time, but any student could audition. 

In the end, 12 students were cast, with Maddie Vassalo, Indira Colbert, and Walker Price cast as leads.

The crew filmed three PSAs aimed at addressing the topics of teenage depression and suicide. Two were filmed at Wilson and the third was filmed offsite. 

After production, the PSAs were released to be aired as commercials across various channels and services and were screened nationwide. They continue to run today.

According to Price, the crew tackled the topics by representing them in various settings, mainly that of a high school. “The goals of the PSA were to help destigmatize these kinds of things since there is a big social stigma around them. The PSA can help people feel more comfortable talking about it, so they know it’s not a crime to feel this way.”

These messages were about as relevant as they could be. According to I Need a Lighthouse, an organization for depression and suicide awareness, 20 percent of teens will experience depression before they reach adulthood, and that percentage continues to rise. The National Institute of Health (NIH) reports that suicide is the #10 cause of death in the U.S., so these PSAs and their topics are relevant in the daily lives of Americans, especially teens.

Harris now states that this year Wilson students will have the opportunity to audition for PSAs that will again be sponsored by Boys Town. Harris describes the theme of the upcoming videos to be “working through depression, getting support, and taking charge of your destiny.” The dates of auditions are not yet known.