October 24, 2019

‘Ghosted’ play helps teens support each other, and their mental health

Educational theatre production reduces stigma and encourages open discussion, to help teens understand they are not alone.

In high school, it can be hard to talk about sad or anxious feelings which may lead teens to disconnect and become a “ghost” of themselves. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 20% of youth ages 13 to 18 live with a mental health condition, with anxiety being most common and affecting nearly one-third of adolescents and adults.

Developed by Kaiser Permanente in collaboration with the Seattle Children’s Theatre, “Ghosted” is an interactive play and workshop to address mental health needs, break down stigma, and provide resources to teens and teachers. “Ghosted” is a one-hour assembly presented to high school audiences and follows the journey of 4 young people who are dealing with their own mental health challenges. One character, Syd, is clinically diagnosed with anxiety while Kayla finds herself dealing with secondary stress because she is worried about her friends. The play and open discussion at the end continue to receive positive feedback from educators and students.

Students have the opportunity to submit feedback using an anonymous survey. One student said, “Talking about depression and suicidal thoughts, that’s not something we’ve done before, like ever at school,” and another commented, “It was a very good show … I connected with a lot of the characters; it was real.”

“The presentation was very powerful, creative, fun, and refreshing, especially to see young individuals raise awareness about the importance of mental health and wellness. The young actors beautifully captured the essence of day-to-day challenges that our students experience with socioemotional and mental health needs,” said Alejandra Vaca-Perez, a licensed clinical social worker and counselor at Pajaro Valley High School in Watsonville, California. “I particularly enjoyed the part about finding a safe space, developing healthy coping skills, and normalizing the conversation about anxiety and depression, which are all very common for this age group yet the stigma makes it difficult. The discussion at the end really helps to reinforce the message to seek help, and the actors did an amazing job at engaging such a huge crowd of students.”

Since its inception in Washington state, “Ghosted” productions have spread to other areas where Kaiser Permanente operates. The program is part of an expansion of Thriving Schools offerings known as Resilience in School Environments, or RISE, aimed at empowering educators to create safe and supportive learning environments by implementing practices and policies that improve the social and emotional health of both students and staff. For more information about how to bring “Ghosted” to your school, reach out to the Educational Theatre contact in your area.

Supporting the mental health and wellness of kids and teens

“Ghosted” is one of several Kaiser Permanente programs to support youth mental health and wellness. In early October 2019, Kaiser Permanente committed $2.75 million to study childhood trauma and its impact on total health.