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Student & Alumni Achievements

Student & Alumni Achievements

Yale: Student Uses Theater to Highlight First Responder Mental Health

As an emergency medical technician in rural Vermont, Yale School of Public Health student Ms. Taiga Christie saw first-hand how emergency workers’ lives are impacted by stress, trauma, exhaustion and other demands of their jobs.

Realizing a need to bring  attention to first responder mental health, and with an existing interest in the dramatic arts, Ms. Christie decided to incorporate the struggles of emergency workers into a play that would eventually serve as her master’s thesis.“Counting Pebbles,” premiered this spring Yale Cabaret.

The play tells the story of rural emergency medical services providers struggling to deal with the loss of one of their own in a fatal overdose. The play is based on emergency medical services (EMS) provider stories drawn from interviews, personally witnessed by Mr. Christie. Counting Pebbles was produced in collaboration with the Code Green Campaign.

“Trauma, addiction and mental health struggles are still stigmatized in EMS,” said Ms. Christie, an MPH student in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences. “This play was meant to humanize some of these experiences, and to recognize that they’re widely shared.

The title of the play, Counting Pebbles, comes from a metaphor related to Ms. Christie years ago, and quoted in the script: “If each patient’s weight is a boulder, you can only carry a few before you’re buried. But if you can just take a pebble from each person, that’s not much weight, right?  I try to just take a pebble from each patient. Just a little bit of that patient’s memory that I’m taking with me.”

The characters in the play highlight different emotional and mental health stressors members of the first responder community deal with – from survivor guilt to burnout, substance use, and financial strain.