HEALTHY MIND MATTERS

Utah Shakespeare Festival Shares Suicide Prevention Message With Students

Feb 25, 2020, 9:38 PM | Updated: Jun 22, 2022, 3:02 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Shakespeare Festival took a special message on tour to high schools and universities throughout the state this year at no charge.

The festival’s production of “Every Brilliant Thing” by Duncan Macmillan and Jonny Donahoe illustrates the effects of suicide in a new and different light.

Suicide remains the leading cause of death for Utahns ages 10 to 24, according to a recent report published by the University of Utah, making this a particularly important message for Utah youth.

Cordell Cole stars in the one-person show. He portrays a man who starts a list as a child of everything he thinks is worth living for, like ice cream and water fights.

He begins the list in a desperate effort to persuade his mother to live after she attempts to commit suicide.

“Because she can’t see anything worth living for,” Cole explains in the production.

As the play continues, Cole attends high school and gets married.

The play illustrates the devastating ripple effects suicide has on friends and family members of the individual at risk.

“What I love about this show is it really focuses not on the person that’s attempting, but the effect of that person — on me,” Cole said.

Cole invites students from the audience to play other characters to create an interactive experience.

He said the production is designed to help students recognize their worth and remind them of reasons that motivate them to live.

For 18-year-old Justice Burt, a theater student at West High School, it’s the feeling he gets performing on stage.

He said his brilliant thing is when the curtains open at the top of a show he is performing in.

“You’re hyping yourself up, getting yourself ready, and then as soon as those curtains open, you’re just transported into this world where you feel like you can do anything,” he explained.

Burt admitted being a teenager can be difficult.

“It can get really frustrating and lonely at times,” he said. “I know that there are so many kids my age that feel like there is no other option out there, that they just can’t continue living.”

Cole hoped the production starts a dialogue and sends a message.

“When you don’t talk about something, especially this subject, it gives it a whole lot of power, and then when you start talking about it, it takes all that power away,” he said. “It’s important to keep going I think and push through because things do get better.”

West High student Madelyn Valdez said she struggles with depression herself but she understood the message loud and clear.

“A person’s life is so valuable because of how many people they impact,” she said.

After watching the play, Valdez said she’s ready to start her own list.

“I think my brilliant thing would have to be the smell of my great grandparents’ house,” she said.

Valdez thinks creating a list, or something like it, could also help her peers.

“I think encourage people to continue living for the small things rather than these huge giant things that seem to be really overwhelming a lot,” she said.

Morissa Henn, community health program director at Intermountain Healthcare, said sometimes getting better requires even more, like medication and professional counseling.

“It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help,” Henn said. “In fact, it really can be a sign of strength and of caring for oneself and one’s family to take that step…and can even save a life.”

After performing across Utah, Cole recognized a common theme.

“It seems like everyone in this state, through one way, shape, or form, has had some relation to the subject of suicide,” he said.

Cole hoped young people find a way to gain hope and perspective.

The Utah Shakespeare Festival took the production to 160 schools across the state, starting the conversation with 75,000 students.

Suicide Prevention Resources

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or exhibiting warning signs, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Additional Crisis Hotlines

  • Utah County Crisis Line: 801-226-4433
  • Salt Lake County/UNI Crisis Line: 801-587-3000
  • Wasatch Mental Health Crisis Line: 801-373-7393
  • National Suicide Prevention Crisis Text Line: Text “HOME” to 741-741
  • Trevor Project Hotline for LGBTQ teens: 1-866-488-7386
  • University Of Utah Crisis Interventional Crisis Line: 801-587-300

Online Resources

In An Emergency

  • Call the police
  • Go to the emergency room

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Healthy Mind Matters

Posters at the Department of Health and Human Services offers advice on preventing and getting over...
Jed Boal

How community postvention tool kit helps communities after a suicide

How our communities respond after a suicide death matters and that's why the Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition created an online tool kit to help.
1 day ago
LGBTQ teens at an Encircle activity....
Ashley Moser, KSL TV

Parents’ support key to mental health among LGBTQ+ youth, experts say

Nearly 20 percent of adults in the U.S. live with a mental health condition. In the LGBTQ+ community, that number is three times higher. Experts say family support is crucial to an adolescents’ mental health.
7 days ago
Officer Casey Burton saved a man from a drug overdose in Liberty Park with Naloxone. (KSL TV)...
Jed Boal, KSL TV

‘He was super thankful’: Police officer saves man from overdose at Liberty Park

Liberty Park is a busy place as the weather warms. Tuesday an alert Salt Lake City Police Officer came across a man who was struggling to stand. The officer was in the right place to save a man from a drug overdose.
1 month ago
Rylin Adams...
Tamara Vaifanua, KSL TV

Elite Utah athlete talks about her struggles with mental health

Athletes are disciplined, strong-willed, and dedicated but they don’t always have it all together.
1 month ago
FILE: In this photo illustration, the TikTok app is displayed on an Apple iPhone on August 7, 2020 ...
Larry D. Curtis

TikTok and social media can distort mental health information for teens

Teens, just like adults can find themselves scrolling through video after social-media video. The billion — yes billion — users on TikTok are primarily teens and some mental health professionals have stated the platform is negatively impacting the mental health crisis.
1 month ago
The SafeUT app provides real-time crisis intervention for people in immediate distress....
Jed Boal, KSL TV

Experts: SafeUT app has helped thwart threats at Utah schools

The SafeUT app was launched more than five years ago as a response to a public health crisis with suicide. That app has also helped thwart violent attacks at schools.
1 month ago

Sponsored Articles

hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...
1-800-GOT-JUNK?

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
Utah Shakespeare Festival Shares Suicide Prevention Message With Students