Trigger warning: This story contains references to serious mental health challenges.
For the past year and a half, there’s been no escaping talk of COVID-19. We have another global-scale health issue at play, too, but it’s more often swept under the rug or ignored: mental health. Growing up, I found that any grownups’ attempts to discuss mental health often came in a patronizing, less-than-helpful manner.
During my sophomore year of high school, two students died of suicide within a one-week period. The response we got from the administration and the district—including their suicide awareness plan—struck me as ineffective in reaching the target audience. The resources felt out of date and out of touch.
My junior year, I learned of an opportunity to write and direct a play. I knew it would be a good way to spread awareness and destigmatize mental health issues from the perspective of a teen—one who had struggled with mental health issues herself. One who was a member of the target audience with a better understanding of the issues and feelings students have and experience.
It would also be the perfect project for my Gold Award. Through the years, Girl Scouting meant so much to me. It empowered me. It built up my confidence. It allowed me to have role models and to become a role model for future leaders and young women. Directing this play would put those skills to use.
Through my play, I sought to challenge the taboo that surrounds mental health. While directing and writing, I had open conversations with my peers and classmates about depression and suicide. I wanted to make sure this was a play for the students; I didn’t want it to feel like a lecture or out of touch. I was sure to use language and characters that would be relatable to kids my age. My goal was to reassure kids that struggling with our mental health is not something we should feel ashamed of or keep hidden.
In the middle of my project, my team faced a big obstacle. Our plans for the play—which was supposed to take place in person and on stage—was suddenly halted by COVID-19. For a while I spiraled, wondering how I was going to transform my live production into something that would fit within the limitations posed by a pandemic. I also mourned the many milestones I would have to miss out on. It was finally my determination that allowed me to adapt.
I realized I was a much more flexible and committed person than I sometimes gave myself credit for. The leadership skills I learned in Girl Scouts flourished when I was under pressure. Against the odds, my show went on in an entirely new format. We adjusted our production so we could record it on Zoom and upload it to YouTube.
Now that the play was a success, I am driven and focused on my studies. The Gold Award Girl Scout scholarship will allow me to focus on my education, first and foremost.
Himani founded Save the Girl Child to promote gender equality in India and Georgia and earn the Girl Scout Gold Award.
Breanna educated children about the importance of pollinators and helped build habitats for bees to earn the Girl Scout Gold Award.