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ICE: beyond cool

Caitlin Pencarrick

Reprinted from "Suicide" issue of Visions Journal, 2005, 2 (7), p. 32-33

ICE: beyond cool—A history

ICE is the first production in a series of four: ICE: beyond cool (about teen suicide), FIRE: where there’s smoke (about violence in youths’ lives), EARTH (youths’ concerns about environmental sustainability and social justice, to premiere in 2006) and AIR (thoughts on freedom of expression, issues of the spirit, not yet begun).

ICE was created after our company held three years of arts workshops with more than 250 youth. Out of these workshops came the ideas, emotions, fears and hopes of youth from across British Columbia. We put these all in a high-tech, entertaining-but-real production in 1997, which was performed for teens all across Canada and then adapted for television with CBC in 2000.

Why ICE?

More youth are committing suicide than ever before, so we decided to start with ICE: beyond cool. We needed to do this show because, we discovered, no one wanted to talk about teen suicide—why it was happening and, especially, why it was happening to youth. We hoped that doing a show that was entertaining but didn’t skim over the topic would make it easier for youth to talk openly about why they thought about suicide, why their friends did, why their sis- ters and brothers did.

ICE was performed by youth in order to give the clear message that we want youth to be able to voice their thoughts, and we want to keep the shows accessible to youth. It is a high-energy performance that includes dance, theatre and music. We made sure the music would be interesting to young people; we set it up like a rock show and performed it in malls, to bring the message right to the people we needed to reach.

What is ICE all about?

ICE is about Sara, a stressed-out teen dealing with the pressures of school, her parents’ divorce, friends wanting her to do drugs, and her boyfriend pressuring her to have sex. A boy Sara tutors turns up at her door when she is in the middle of a meltdown with her mom, and she yells at him to leave her alone. He does, and in the morning is found dead. Her best friend, who is battling with eating disorders, calls to tell her that she, too, is on the verge of committing suicide. Sara feels alone and ill-equipped to help her friend, but in the end manages to talk her out of killing herself.

The show covers many of the issues that can push young people to consider suicide: low self-esteem, stress from school, relationships with parents, peer pressure, poor body image—the list goes on and on.

Sample scene from ICE

—SARA: You have to keep talking. That’s the rule.
—CHRISSIE: Yeah, ‘til I either feel better or decide to do it. Right?
—S: Yeah. So?
—C: So—so yeah, okay, I’m feeling a bit better.
—S: Oh, yeah? Me too.
—INNER SARA: (flexing). No kidding.
—C: So I guess it’s not gonna happen.
—S: Okay. Good.
—C: At least not this time.
—S: Meaning what?
—C: What, you want me to guarantee you the rest of my life?
—S: Okay. One bit at a time, eh.
—C: Yeah. So meanwhile, hang onto these. (Hands over pills)

What our audiences had to say

  • “I’m not alone and I’m not crazy.”

  • "The original production saved three of my friends’ lives.

  • "All we have to do is keep talking to break the silence.”

  • “At points I wanted to cry, ’cause I looked at the characters and said to myself, that was me…”

What has ICE done?

ICE has voiced the silent thoughts of many youth, not only to other youth but to the groups that support youth across Canada. ICE has helped these groups connect with youth they may never have reached before—youth who came forward after seeing our production. Most importantly, ICE has helped families talk about suicide, and about the pressures that lead to suicide. Mothers, fathers and their children have sent numerous e-mails and letters talking about how, after seeing ICE, they went home to share issues they never dared discuss before. This show opened the eyes of parents to the stresses their children deal with every day; stresses the parents likely didn’t deal with when they were young.

Key factors in suicide prevention

  • An important person in the youth’s life: A parent, teacher, close friend or youth worker. This presence is very important for youth with little or no family support.

  • Good coping skills: This is related to a person’s personality, not intelligence. Youth need support to see their ability to rise to a challenge.

  • A supportive and caring family: Firm guidance, good communication, family stability and the ability to ‘grow’ with the young person all help to support youth.

  • Interests and activities: Group activities help young people channel their energy and frustration in a socially acceptable manner. Relating with others in a semi-structured and fun-filled environment, and achieving success in activities, gives them the opportunity to raise their self-esteem.

About the Author

Caitlin is with Judith Marcuse Projects, a not-for-profit arts organization using arts to make change. The organization works with youth to create performances about issues important to youth around the world. For more information, contact Caitlin at 604-606-6425 or caitlin@ or 604-669-655

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