JERSEY CITY, N.J., Feb. 5, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Reyhan Lalaoui has already led a pretty impressive young life. She graduated high school at the age of 13, became the youngest Valedictorian at Hudson County Community College at 16, and is set to obtain her bachelor's degree at Saint Peter's University this May. But this busy 18-year-old isn't just studying - she's producing cutting edge media content, too. And she's laser focused on creating an honest portrayal of the unique mental health challenges of inner city youth in a new television series set and filmed in Jersey City.
Suicide Spenders is the first series out of her production company, County Films. The main cast, who portray a struggling group of teens involved in a high school support group, all hail from Hudson County, NJ high schools including High Tech, County Prep, Hoboken High and McNair Academic High School. "The typical face of mental health challenges in modern media doesn't resemble our cast," said Lalaoui. Not only did the teen write, produce and edit the series, she also plays the role of Anya, a Muslim Moroccan-American who struggles with depression and crippling anxiety.
"We're from the inner city. We don't have easy access to quality mental health care. Many of us are uninsured." She adds, "It's not always as simple as 'ask a trusted adult for help.' When you add the nuances of culture and religion into the mix, you'll start to see the sparks of a conversation that desperately needs to be had."
In the series, the teens find themselves thrust into a half-hearted suicide pact which demands that they live life on the edge for one week. What happens during their search for meaning galvanizes the group into rethinking their plans and the trajectory of their lives.
"Not every story is going to show characters making the right decisions," said Lalaoui. "The struggles in Suicide Spenders speak uniquely to Generation Z. Sometimes that truth is uncomfortably raw and controversial. But it also has the potential to bring people together."
Lalaoui believes the subject of teenage mental health has been misrepresented in entertainment and she hopes her series is on the leading edge of an underserved niche in media, one driven by a sophisticated market of young consumers hungry for authentic stories.
"This is not an aesthetically-pleasing high school drama," she said. "Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth in this country. It's taking causalities every day and yet the media still romanticizes it. I'm working hard to change that."
Part of that work involves her Kickstarter campaign where she's already raised more than $2,400 toward her $10,000 fundraising goal. http://kck.st/2VSyE19
"I want to begin a conversation from a different angle. The issues that are hard to talk about are often the ones we most need to talk about."
To view the Suicide Spenders series trailer visit CountyFilms.com.
SOURCE County Films