Hope, Healing and Arts

Hope Out of the Darkness

12-10-2021 • 45 mins

The arts can have a profound effect on a person's mental health and can offer a place of hope and healing to many people. Dylan Russell and Jake Blair, Aunt and Nephew, tell us about how the arts offered a safe place to express their emotions after losing their family member to suicide. Dylan is the Director of Education and Outreach at Laguna Playhouse in Laguna Beach, CA and discusses Laguna Playhouse’s program for teens and young adults, talks about some of her favorite teaching experiences, and explains very well how and why art is such a great healing tool. Jake is pursuing his master’s degree in Social Work at the University of Denver after working with people who were struggling with mental health issues and substance abuse motivated him to become better educated about how to help people who are struggling. He shares his story of healing through music, what he learned working in the acute residential treatment center, and how mental health caregivers can avoid burnout.

If you are in crisis or know someone who is...please call:

Suicide Lifeline at 1-800- 273-8255
or text the word “help” to 741-741

About Dylan:

Dylan is a director, educator, new play developer, and community engagement specialist whose passion for interactive storytelling has influenced her work with schools and organizations such as Laguna Playhouse, American Conservatory Theatre, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Oakland Public Schools, Jewish Community High School, and TheatreFIRST.

Dylan envisioned, created, and leads the OUR STORIES program at Laguna Playhouse, which utilizes generative theatre practices to combat stigma, create awareness about mental health, and amplify the voices of youth and young adults ages 16-25. Dylan was recognized as a KNX Hero in 2020 for her work on Our Stories and the program was a recipient of the Biller Family Foundation COVID-19 Social Impact Theatre Innovation Award 2021.

About Jake:

Jake is currently a 27-year-old grad student at the University of Denver where he's studying to get his Master’s degree in Social Work. Before moving to Denver, he was living in San Francisco where he was a counselor at an acute residential treatment center, helping those with mental health conditions and substance abuse issues who were just getting out of crisis situations. Professionally, he's worked with many folks that have had suicide attempts and deal with chronic and acute suicidality as well as having personal history surrounding the topic of suicide.


• Meet this week's guests, Dylan Russel and Jake Blair
• How Jake used music to process grief
• Art allows people to experience their emotions with others
• Laguna Playhouse has created a program that is a safe space for people to share their stories
• How sharing your experiences with others is a powerful healing tool
• Starting a conversation by exposing your own vulnerability and emotions
• What it takes to be a good arts teacher
• How can mental health workers avoid compassion fatigue?
• Make the time to connect with others


Connect with Shell Pavlis:

AFSP Board Member, Project 2025 Champion for Orange County, CA
Realtor® Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties
All Shell’s Social: https://linktr.ee/shellseeshell

Connect with our guests, Dylan Russel and Jake Blair:

Laguna Playhouse https://lagunaplayhouse.com/
Our Stories https://lagunaplayhouse.com/education-community-engagement/our-stories/
Council on Aging OC https://www.coasc.org
Children’s Hospital of Orange County https://www.choc.org/mental-health/
Hoag Hospital https://www.hoag.org/about-hoag/community-benefit/hoag-programs/mental-health-services/
University of California, Irvine https://counseling.uci.edu/services/

Let’s Stop Suicide. Mental Health for All. Suicide Prevention. Suicide Support.

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Orange County, CA: https://afsp.org/chapter/orange-county
Become a Volunteer https://afsp.org/chapter/orange-county#volunteer
Advocacy https://afsp.org/become-a-suicide-prevention-public-policy-advocate
National Alliance on Mental Health https://nami.org/Support-Education
DiDi Hirsch Mental Health Services (LA & OC) https://didihirsch.org

Connect with Hope Out of the Darkness:

Record a Question about mental health or suicide to be answered on an episode of Hope Out of the Darkness: https://www.speakpipe.com/HopeOutoftheDarkness
Want to be a guest, or have an idea for a discussion you want to hear? Email Shellpavlis.afsp@gmail.com