According to a 2015 NHANES study, 1 in 5 youth aged 13-18 experiences a severe mental health crisis at some point during their life.
Gutless and Grateful is a program that combines Broadway theatre and mental health advocacy, appropriate for events both entertaining and educational, and for programs that engage and inspire students, parents and teachers alike.
I am an uplifting, insightful, youth empowerment speaker, performer and survivor, delivering powerful presentations designed to motivate middle and high school youth, while empowering them to be agents of change for themselves and their community.
The program can also be expanded to three components, if requested:
Part 1) A 70-minute one-woman autobiographical musical – Gutless & Grateful – a comedic yet poignant story on surviving 27 stomach surgeries, organ failure and sexual abuse. Through interwoven song and dialogue, Oestreicher share a primal piece of live-storytelling – a powerful message that it’s possible for students to overcome physical and mental health obstacles.
Part 2) An educational session/speech discussing an empowered approach to mental health, how to develop a resiliency toolbox, how to cultivate hope, and how to thrive in college with a physical or mental health condition.
Part 3) A Q&A session to introduce students to a panel of counselors/faculty and wellness resources. The program can also be followed by smaller breakout sessions among students to continue building confidence and compassion through creative expression.
High school speaking topics include:
- Develop Healthy Habits
- Cultivate a Support System
- Reframe “Failure” and “Obstacles”
- Create a Diverse, Inclusive Community Built on Compassion
- Becoming a Leader
- Make a Positive Impact in their Community
- Learn How To Bounce Back in Difficult Times
- Develop a Resiliency Toolbox
- Break Down Body Image Barriers
- Take an Empowered Approach to Wellness and Stress Management
- Healthy Youth Mental Health Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website provides information on mental health targeted at youth adolescent and school health.
- Adolescent Mental Health (OAH) is dedicated to improving the health and well-being of adolescents to enable them to become healthy, productive adults.
- TeenMentalHealth.org A wonderful resource for curriculum on teen mental health.
In Amy’s Words:
From the time I could remember, I have always possessed an intense passion for the world of words and music. I couldn’t believe I had gotten into the musical theatre program at University of Michigan! All my life, I had dreamed of pursuing a career in theatre, on Broadway, in every musical possible – and this was my golden ticket! I had worked so hard all of my life for this and felt that at 18, everything had come together – I would train for Broadway, win my Tony, and conquer the world. I didn’t realize that two weeks after I was waving my Michigan envelope around, dancing like a lunatic…that my world would drastically change forever.
At 18, and a week before my senior prom, I found myself in intense pain – very suddenly and randomly. I was rushed to the ER, and to summarize very briefly, my stomach exploded, I was in a coma for six months, and I was unable to eat or drink a drop of water for over three years. After 27 surgeries, I was miraculously reconnected with whatever I had left. However, to persevere through those tumultuous years took great inner and outer strength. I relied on my creativity to get through. My therapy was purely based in the world of theatre, art, writing, dance, music, and whatever else I felt was an area that I could express myself appropriately. The arts were a way for me to express whatever felt too painful and overwhelming to put into words. They also helped me process what I was feeling. But most importantly, they served to be the greatest reward acting as a medium where I could still engage with my community, reach out to others, and make a difference in this world while utilizing my passion. Arts were my way of connecting with the world, sharing my story, and spreading my message of hope, strength, and finding beauty in whatever life brings you.
Everything became possible once I was willing to wander from my teenaged fantasies and take this new life on proudly. I can’t be 18 again but lucky for me I can be the best 28 I can. This is not the life that I planned for myself – but does anyone’s life ever work out exactly how they plan it?
So many gifts came out of this. I discovered painting in hospitals and flourished as a mixed media artist with solo art shows, merchandise and creativity workshops. I wrote a one-woman musical about my life, Gutless & Grateful, which I’ve performed in theatres across the country for three years and now take it to college campuses, conferences and support groups. And after getting my own “lifetime education,” I finally started college…at 25 years old.
As a performer, all I’ve wanted to do was give back to the world. But now I have an even greater gift to give: a story to tell.
Book Gutless and Grateful today.
The program can also be followed by creative workshops. Learn more here.