MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Texas – Lights, camera, and action with a goal to reverse a sad and disturbing trend.
We are not on the set of a movie in Hollywood or New York. This crew is shooting a mystery drama -- in its second season -- in the town of Montgomery, in Montgomery County, just 55 miles north of Houston. It is called “Breaking Strongholds,” which began production in 2019.
The faith-based drama dives deep into issues that have become harder -- yet more necessary -- to discuss these days: depression, anxiety, and suicide.
“I don’t think any of us, if we really kind of take a look at those around us, are not impacted in some way,” said lead actress Kayce Clark. “Someone that we know, someone that we love, is struggling with one of those things.”
That includes crew and cast members like John Chance who has a lead role in “Breaking Strongholds.”
“For a long time it was wrestling with the ability to tell someone and to just have that first icebreaker comment of, ‘Hey, I think I’m really struggling with something,’” recalled Chance.
The 23-year-old says he dealt with depression and even suicidal thoughts from middle school through college. Chance now plays a character encountering the same issues in “Breaking Strongholds.”
“It’s kind of weird at times to see myself reliving some of those moments,” Chance said. “But in a way, it is almost cathartic to realize, ‘Hey, you know, you kind of got pulled out of this rough area of your life and look where you are now, and you now have a platform to reach people.’”
“Breaking Strongholds” is offered for free on YouTube and several other streaming services aimed at a young, diverse audience -- and with good reason.
NAMI, or the National Alliance on Mental Illness, says suicide is the second leading cause of death of children between the ages of 10 and 14. Other studies show it is the second-leading cause of death among those 25-to-34 years of age.
“We recently had a cast member on our show lose his son to suicide,” said Terry Weaver, marketing director and one of the lead actors for “Breaking Strongholds.” “I mean, it’s just really close to home.”
No community is untouched. Although more women than men attempt suicide, men are four times more likely to die by suicide.
The highest rates of suicide in the United States are among American Indians and Alaska natives. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are nearly four times more likely to attempt suicide than straight youth, and transgender adults, who are nearly nine times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population.
“Breaking Strongholds” aims to reduce anxiety, depression, and suicide by dealing with those issues in a straightforward, compelling manner.
“We think that if we can make something very entertaining, which the show is, that people will get hooked on the entertainment,” said Weaver. “Then we can show them some hope throughout the message.”
For those who are suffering from anxiety, depression, or suicidal thoughts John Chance, who dealt with those very issues for quite some time, has this advice -- reach out to those you are closest to even if you don’t think they would understand. That gives them and you an opportunity to overcome.
“Those are the people that are going to be listening to you,” Chance said. “Those are the people who are going to be pouring into you, and they’re going to be investing the most time into you.”
Throughout each episode, producers point viewers to a suicide prevention program called “SafeTalk” -- and also to a study guide that walks the audience through steps to take and questions to ask if they think they know someone who is dealing with anxiety, depression, or thoughts of suicide. Click here to access the website.