Students at Forest Lawn High School are working collaboratively to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health by encouraging positive interactions that promote empathy and openness.

With a grant from EducationMatters, students recently participated in WP Puppet Theatre’s View From the Inside program, which uses arts and performance to begin conversations about mental health. Over 50 students from Forest Lawn High School participated in the program. Each had varying experiences, either having experienced personal challenges or having close friends or family members with mental health concerns.

Over the course of a few months, students were given the opportunity to create masks, write monologues, and even compose original musical arrangements that focused on important mental wellness concepts.

To create the masks, students spent time researching various mental illnesses, and through their interpretations, they were able to demonstrate the differences between how individuals living with an illness present themselves to the public, compared to how they may feel on the inside. The outside of the masks represents the face they may put on for the outside world. The inside of the masks represents how those struggling with specific mental illnesses are feeling inside.

View from the inside mask

Drama students then built personal connections to the masks to further their understanding of mental illness and created monologues to bring voices to the challenges people living with these illnesses experience. The monologues speak to the complexity of mental health, and its impact on daily life.

Music students had discussions to share ideas about the masks and monologues. The students used these conversations to create a musical piece that reflects their interpretation of the masks and monologues. Then, dance students choreographed a performance to the music that visually embodies the internal struggle and resiliency of a person struggling with mental health.

The View From the Inside program culminated with an exhibition and performance on May 31, as families, community members and fellow students gathered in Forest Lawn High School’s theatre.

The event showcased this unique expression of mental health, and demonstrated advocacy, understanding, and vulnerability.

Through dance, music, performance, and creation, the students’ courage to remove their own masks, while creating a platform for open dialogue and expression about mental health, was incredible.

The View From the Inside project has already initiated important conversations between students and staff and we are looking forward to the impact it will have on the school community going forward.