Mental health and wellness cannot be addressed enough in the schools with so much bullying being reported nationwide but Gridley schools, including Manzanita brought the Sacramento B Street Theater to town last week and made a real impression on fourth through eighth graders.
"Walk in our Shoes," is a school based performance tour that focuses on academics, health, character education, culture and reducing stigmas.
The interactive rap songs performed by the four actors encouraged the students to take care of their own minds to feel better.
Each actor was introduced by their character's name starting out with "Hannah," who not only played the flute but also made up melodies.
"I didn't always love to play the flute," she explained. "I grew up with two siblings who were more talented than me."
"Hannah," told the fourth graders on Thursday that she only took up the flute to keep up with her two siblings.
"They were smarter than me," she said matter-of-factly. "My parents had high standards for success," she stated before asking the audience if they had parents or guardians pressuring them to do better.
She explained that she felt isolated and depressed sometimes as she reacted to the pressure of her parents.
"I felt like a pendulum," she told the students.
Hannah told the attentive fourth graders that she went from one extreme to another, a feeling she had no control over.
"People were calling me "wierdo, crazy or loser."
It especially hurt "Hannah" growing up to hear her mother say, "Why can't she be more like her brother and sister."
Creating labels made it hard on "Hannah" as she grew up. She was told she should see a mental health specialist when she just wanted to be left alone she told the students. Her parents asked her to go for them and she did. She was diagnosed as being Bi Polar and although it sounded scary, she soon learned it was nothing to be ashamed of just because her emotions could go from happy to sad quickly.
The students were told the word "Stigma," is a label given to someone just for being different.
The main thing to take from "Hannah's," story is to not be afraid to ask for help.
Attention Deficit Disorder was explained to the students along with Post Traumatic Stress Disorders and eating disorders and how many things can affect one's life, especially without getting help.
"Walk in Our Shoes," was presented at Wilson, Sycamore and Manzanita Schools last week making a real impression on many fourth through eighth graders who had a lot of good information to process.
Interactive "Walk In Our Shoes," websites at www.walkinourshoes.org are excellent for youth and adults and the live performances were excellent for adults to stop and think - to hear what the children go through such as being called names, made fun of because of their size, nationality, the list goes on.
Page 2 of 2 - The actors were young which meant it seemed the students related to them more as they heard how desperate their characters were.
"If you can't talk about your feelings - write a note and give it to an adult," the students were told. "It helps to know you are not alone."
Students were given time to ask questions and were told that no problem is too big to overcome in life.
Each of the four characters went to a specialist or physician and diagnosed to show the students help really is available.
"Ask for help if you need it. If something is wrong, talk to an adult about it," they were told.
"If you see someone being labeled you have a responsibility to help them," the actors said.
Each of the four stories were based on real life stories and a Spanish language website is also available at www.ponteenmiszapatos.org.