Play which tackles suicide and mental health to help young people in US

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Patrick McBrearty and Pat Lynch in a scene from the play 'Blinkered'

By Richard O'Reilly

A hard-hitting play from Northern Ireland that tackles the issues of suicide and mental health is set to help young people and adults in the US.

Blinkered by Patricia Byrne  play was produced by Sole Purpose, a professional theatre company based in Derry/Lonodnderry, tells the story of Ryan, a young man dealing desperately with feelings of isolation and thoughts of taking his own life. 

The play was developed in consultation with mental health professionals. Siobhan O’Neill, Professor of Mental Health Sciences at Ulster University commented: “I worked with Patricia from the early stages of the development of the play. We were very keen to ensure that the play portrayed a realistic story, and reflected some of the themes from the research in Northern Ireland on the factors associated with suicides here.”

It was during the preparation for this play last year that it was seen by a group from Roosevelt High School in Seattle on an exchange trip with Oakgrove Integrated College

. Janine Magidman, Teacher from Roosevelt High School, siad "Youth suicide is a troubling and tragic concern in societies from Northern Ireland all the way across the world to Seattle. Our group from Seattle were deeply moved by our first experience with the Sole Purpose production of 'Blinkered' in Derry in 2016. We at Roosevelt High School had been shocked by two suicides in two years and 'Blinkered' gave us permission to bring the issue front and centre.”

Patricia Byrne, the play’s writer and Artistic Director of Sole Purpose, will travel to Seattle in May to carry out three weeks of workshops with up to 150 students at Roosevelt High School. 

Sole Purpose’s remit is to address social and public issues and in the past 20 years they have created and performed productions on domestic violence, financial abuse of the elderly, human trafficking, LGBT issues and the ethnic minority experience in Northern Ireland.

Patricia felt that a play about suicide should be accompanied by an interactive workshop in which people could explore how this issue could be directly addressed.

“In the workshop the audience can make suggestions on ways that they think this young man, Ryan, can be helped, or ways that he can help himself. In everyday life we skirt around the word ‘suicide’ afraid to say it in case we give the person ideas or cause upset. But the truth is, often, asking someone if they feel suicidal can be a relief to them and allow them to talk about how they are feeling,” she said.

Seattle teacher Janine Magidman added: “We look forward to welcoming Ms. Byrne"

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