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Whitney students among 16 regional winners in statewide film contest

By: Gold Country Media
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Directing Change Program & Film Contest announced the regional finalists in the sixth annual student film contest that empowers young people to start important conversations in their community by creating 60-second films about suicide prevention and mental health.

Films created by students at Whitney High School are among 16 regional winners selected to advance to a final round of judging to declare a statewide winner. Sponsored by Each Mind Matters: California’s Mental Health Movement, and the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA), statewide winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in Los Angeles at The Theater at Ace Hotel on Tuesday, May 22.

This year the program received 742 submissions from 164 schools and community-based organizations, representing 32 California counties and 2,430 youth and young adults. Participating students competed regionally by submitting 60-second films in three categories: suicide prevention, mental health matters and Through the Lens of Culture, a category that encouraged participants to choose suicide prevention or mental health as a focus, but with additional requirements including creating a film in a language different than English and/or with focus on how different cultures view these topics. New this year is two 30-second categories including Animated Short with the focus of suicide prevention and SanaMente where participants entered Spanish-language films to promote mental health and direct viewers to SanaMente.org.

It's estimated that half of all cases of mental illness begin by age 14 and three-fourths of all instances start by age 24. At the college level, approximately one-fifth to one-third of all undergraduates experiences a mental health challenge. Youth often turn to their friends for support and by directing change the young filmmakers encourage their peers to know the warning signs for suicide, raise mental health awareness, and give them the knowledge to connect a friend to a trusted adult or resource.

A study conducted by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago found that Directing Change is effective at increasing knowledge and skills as well as changing attitudes and behaviors related to mental illness and suicide prevention. The online survey compared those who participated in the program with those who were not exposed to the program and found that participants knew more of the warning signs for suicide, mental health and where to find help. In addition, teachers reported a positive impact on school climate and an increase in student’s willingness to talk about these important health topics.

Region Five winners are:

  • Mental Health Matters Category (High School)
  • Third Place: “A Sister’s Bond” (Directing Change team pick – advances to final judging)
  • School: Whitney High School
  • Filmmakers: Meghan Townsley and Emily Manzer
  • Advisor Name: Ben Barnholdt

All submissions were judged by volunteer experts in mental health and suicide prevention, members of the media, and professionals in filmmaking and video production. The films were judged based on how the entries creatively explored the topics while also adhering to guidelines about how to safely and appropriately communicate about suicide prevention and mental illness.