Liza and Hannah find common ground through artistic expression

Despite their very dissimilar backgrounds, Liza and Hannah both struggle with depression and suicidal ideation. Liza’s discomfort manifests itself in the form of pervasive suicidal thoughts linked to feelings of rejection and to conflicts that appear in most bonds of affection. Hannah, meanwhile, suffers from an impoverishment of social ties. Overwhelmed by the certainty of having deeply disappointed a person to whom she was very attached, she made a serious suicide attempt.

However, Liza and Hannah also share in their experience of Artopie, a teen suicide prevention project facilitated by our partner Children Action in collaboration with the Hôpitaux Universitaires de Genève (HUG). Through culture and art young adults have the opportunity to express themselves, find support, and rediscover social relationships.

In October all the adolescents of the HUG Malatavie Crisis Unit along with 4 of the Unit’s staff members left for the Saint-Gervais theater. A very dynamic and enthusiastic professional actor greeted the group, eager to share the pleasure of a theatrical workshop. The actor’s warm welcome and inviting nature seemed to put the whole group at ease.

The workshop taught the participants the basic techniques of theatre play, body, breathing, voice, and vocal techniques. After a little preparation, the actor proposed an improvisation in which everyone felt comfortable participating, without distinction between the adolescents and the healthcare team. This allowed everyone to find a place in the activity and feel valued.

The actor then spoke about his wish to include each of the participants in an activity. He relied on the voluntary work of certain adolescents and invited others to express themselves. The activity involved the staging of a queen, embodied by Hannah, to whom each participant was to pledge allegiance. Liza, also wanting to play the queen, refused to submit to Hannah. Unknown to the girls, the game made it possible to approach the rivalry which often caused conflict between them. Through the activity, they were both able to assert their legitimacy of being “the queen,” and in turn each conceded a little of her power. This shared moment helped to ease tension in the Unit, but above all, the girls found a point of agreement without feeling rejected or disappointed.

Artistic expression allows youth to address challenging issues and create a unique space for dialogue.