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How Texas Can Strengthen Mental Health for Artists in Need

Kellie Carroll is a North Texas dance and theatre coach. She is no stranger to mental health issues and has chosen to turn her personal trauma into a positive way to assist youth throughout the state dealing with theirs. She has done this through the creation of Rebel Theatrics.

 The group recently completed a three-day convention where they rented a hotel ballroom in uptown Dallas and converted it into a complete training theatre. They used the facility to assist area youth in perfecting their skills in dance, singing, acting, and more. This was one of the first major events hosted by Rebel Theatrics since they chose to take this program on tour.

 What Is A Rebel?

 According to Carroll, when each participant of the youth theatre program is asked what it means to them to be a rebel, “each of these kids has a different and personal answer.” The origin of the name for the touring group was not intentional. The word ‘rebel’ was chosen just to be a placeholder, but, as time passed, Carroll found that it fit well with the concept of the teaching program.

 She also had lost a rebel in her family when her brother Scott succumbed to suicide.

 Mental Health Issues in Her Family

 “I lost my brother to a mental health crisis just a few years ago,” Carroll explains. Although he was a constant supporter of her work and always left an impression wherever he went, there was something else going on in his life that was hidden behind smiles.

 “There weren’t a lot of signs and there weren’t a lot of implications,” she adds. He only indicated that he felt overwhelmed. The entire experience was hard on Carroll, but she managed to turn the negative into a positive.

 Strain Started to Reveal Itself around Her

 It wasn’t long before Carroll started to notice something. The pressures colleagues experienced in the performance industry became more obvious. She found it hard to ignore and realized that stress and anxiety were even more prominent in young artists struggling to get their first break in a notoriously tough business to get into.

 “The industry is super hard,” Carroll explains. “And it’s judgmental.” She says it is not uncommon for theatre artists to be in the position of ending one show and chasing after a new one to stay active in the business and to keep cash flow in place. This can become extremely stressful and tests many young artists’ self-confidence, where they will question their abilities with each audition. The question, “am I good enough?” becomes the main hurdle that easily plays tricks with the mind.

 Fortunately, behavioral health practices are opening, including Geode Health in Frisco, which will offer therapeutic services for adults and adolescents.

 Rebel Theatrics Was Born

 Seeing the impact of the strains of the industry on new artists, and the pain of losing her brother still fresh, Carroll pulled together a crew and built the Rebel Theatrics training conference model. The program has two primary goals:

 To help teens improve their craft

  • To help teens focus on their wellbeing while honing their skills

 The educational element of the Rebel program gets promoted through posters that go up in and around the hosting venue. For example, posters used during the Dallas event addressed the mental stress of getting on stage. They reminded students to pause, breathe deeply, and understand that being overwhelmed by their work to become artists is normal, and it’s okay if it happens. Carroll says that reassuring messages like this provide a positive influence.

 Mental Health Conversations Are Part of the Program

 Another important component of the three-day event is discussion revolving around mental health and the sharing of techniques to help artists cope during those times. Carroll says the idea is to weave mental health concerns into the program in such a way that it feels natural when the discussions come up. That way, students discover that “it’s okay to pause and have a moment of uncertainty before you challenge yourself to be great.”

 The Program Has Become a Hit

 According to members of the Rebel Theatrics team, there have been a lot of positive reactions to the idea of the program. They have also put in the extra effort to accommodate each student who expressed interest and signed up to participate. In Carroll’s words, “Our goal is that a student can come out of Rebel feeling like whatever they’re feeling is okay and that they’re enough.”


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