Get to know Cleveland winning writer, Mayraleeh NelsonBy Cecilia Mejia, April 3, 2017
By Scenarios Alumna and writer of Veracity, Janaya Greene
Mayraleeh Nelson entered a state of disbelief when she found out she was a Scenarios USA Real Deal Winner. She learned that she won Scenarios’ Real Deal Writing Competition this summer, before starting her last year at Facing History New Tech High School in Cleveland. When asked, “What’s the Real Deal about Love and Solidarity?” posed by the Read Deal curriculum, Split Persona was born. Nelson’s film is about twin sisters, Carey and Jalissa, trying to balance their home life, which primarily consists of taking care of their mother who is battling suicidal depression, keeping up with their studies and having social lives.
The script was inspired by Nelson’s desire for people to understand that everyone’s lives are deeper than what they present at face value. She wants people to grasp that “there’s more to everyone’s story.” Nelson knows this first hand, as her mother has depression. “As a family, you take sacrifices in general. Then, as a family with someone in that family who has a mental illness, you take even more sacrifices,” says Nelson. “My dad makes a joke that everybody’s affected by (depression), even the animals in the household!” In Split Persona the Cleveland Real Deal Winner seeks to make it clear that when one family member is hurting, the entire family is affected; a narrative she believes is rarely explored in films.
Carey and Jalissa’s characters are not only reflections of how Nelson feels at times when assisting her mom through her depression, but they’re also reflections of how people react differently to learning that someone they know is depressed. “I’ve come across people that when you tell them ‘I know someone that is depressed,’ they’re like, ‘Oh, are you okay? If you need anything go ahead and call on me,’ and other times someone will be like “Oh really. That’s interesting,’ then you won’t see them.”
As Nelson wraps up her senior year in high school, she’s looking forward to studying Business Management at The Ohio State University. An art-lover herself, Nelson hopes to one day create arts programs for inner-city children that is affordable, unlike many art schools and programs today. Simply put, she hopes Split Personaencourages more candid conversations about mental health, and more specifically depression, to eliminate the stigmas placed on depressed people and encourage understanding and empathy around those that are depressed and their loved ones. “Don’t assume what goes on in someone’s house. Don’t think that everything is perfectly fine because you do not know what goes on behind closed doors,” says Nelson. “I hope people start asking questions about mental illnesses.”