PUEBLO, Colo. — Mental Health America of Pueblo awarded the students of Pueblo County High School the Youth Champion Mental Health Award on Sept. 16 for their touring project called “No One Hears Unless You Scream.”

“It’s been really amazing to be in an environment where social justice issues are can be tackled through the means of theater because it’s such an amazing venue for advocating for social justice issues, and particularly teen suicide because it is just a horrendous problem and we never talk about it ever,” said Taylor Gilman, Drama Teacher at Pueblo County High School.

Gilman said Roxanne Pignanelli is a critical leader and advocate for the production of “No One Hears Unless You Scream.”

“[Pignanelli] actually has been the biggest advocate for this suicide prevention piece and the hugest advocate for the arts,” said Gilman. “So she’s started this project five years ago before I started here and then she sort of mentored me into my role as the director.”

Scarlett Liberato, Pueblo County High School Senior, recalls the group’s initial reaction to working on a project that focuses on suicide prevention.

“My first reaction was definitely just like we’re actually doing something that isn’t made up,” said Liberato. “And it’s very realistic. At first I thought it’s very scary because you really don’t know if you can handle that.”

The school worked with therapists and mental health counselors to help students working on this life-threatening subject.

“When we were first doing it, it is heavy material and the kids, they kind of get bogged down because they’ve all gone through their own experiences as well,” said Gilman. “So we work with therapists, we work with mentors, counselors, and we also worked with a local artist James Beck.”

Some seniors have worked on this piece since their freshman year as a yearly project.

“I think for the public to see it put on by teenagers, they just realize what’s actually going on in our heads and everything,” said Liberato. “I think it’s amazing that we get the opportunity to share that with everyone.”

Gilman said they have done three playwriting workshops and adapted the play so it reflects modern times and the student’s voices.

“I think that has been the beauty of it as well because the students aren’t only learning about, you know, playwriting and advocacy and acting,” said Gilman. “They’re also learning about bringing their work out into the world and getting feedback, which in the world of theater is huge.”

The Youth Mental Health Champion Award acknowledges an individual or group that had a vision or work related to the advancement of mental health awareness for middle and high school students.

“It was just so incredible to be recognized,” said Chloe Vanezera, Pueblo County High School Senior. “I think mental health is just not talked about enough and it’s such an important thing and can really tear you down if you feel like you don’t have anyone to talk to.”

According to Pueblo District 70, this is the first year this award has been presented.

“It is like, so important that people know about mental health and it is so, like validating,” said Autumn Armendariz, Pueblo County High School Senior. “It’s like we’re being seen and being appreciated for doing it. And it really means a lot to all of us, like all of the cast and everyone involved.”

“This really has grown to be something really big and meaningful to our community,” said Mark Gomez, Pueblo County High School Senior. “And it just makes me feel really proud of what I’ve done and what our entire cast has done.”

There will be two upcoming performances of “No One Hears Unless You Scream” in the month of October.

One public performance on Oct. 27 at Pueblo Community College at the Hope Theatre and another performance on Oct. 29 in Colorado Springs. Gilman said the venue is to be determined in Colorado Springs and to check their website for updates.