Utah Opera Brings Awareness to Suicide Prevention In Performance of Romeo and Juliet
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah —The Utah Opera put on a special dress rehearsal performance of Romeo and Juliet for teens across the valley Thursday night. But they hoped to entertain students with more than just music and acting.
“But we also go for thought-provoking experiences, and we have an opportunity to think of things from the safe space of our theater seat,” said Paula Fowler, the Utah Opera’s Director of Education and Community Outreach.
Shakespeare’s classic features two young star crossed lovers who ultimately take their own lives.
At a time when teen suicide is on the rise, Carling Mars with the National Alliance on Mental Illness Salt Lake City affiliate wants to send a message of hope.
“Romeo and Juliet tends to sort of romanticize suicide as if it’s the only way they can be together, but realistically it wasn’t their only option,” Mars said.
The Utah Opera invited local suicide prevention organizations including NAMI, the University Neuropsychiatric Institute (UNI), Intermountain Healthcare, Safe UT, Encircle, NAMI, The Reach Program, and the Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition/Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health to interact with teens on the topic.
She said teenagers in particular are at high risk. The Utah Department of Health released a report this week showing nearly one in four teenagers in Utah has contemplated suicide.
Mars explained, “It’s not just a problem with Romeo and Juliet — it’s a problem with teens all over the country and especially in Utah.”
She said there are resources for teens in need. Mars encourages them to use the SAFE Utah app, to attend free NAMI classes, or to call the suicide prevention hotline.
Fowler hopes the performance will open doors for parents, teachers, and students to discuss difficult topics.
“How could that have been prevented? What are the accidents? What are the misunderstandings? It gets us talking about issues that are important,” she explained.
NAMI and other suicide prevention groups will be at each performance of the Utah Opera’s performance of Romeo and Juliet, which runs this Saturday and Sunday at the Capitol Theater downtown.
Suicide Prevention Resources
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.
- Utah County Crisis Line: 801-691-5433
- Salt Lake County/UNI Crisis Line: 801-587-3000
- Wasatch Mental Health Crisis Line: 801-373-7393
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- Trevor Project Hotline for LGBTQ teens: 1-866-488-7386