Tulare County Students Recognized for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Achievements

Annual contest promotes artistic expression around mental health and coping with tough times, the pandemic and returning to in-person school.
The Directing Change Program & Film Contest announced the regional finalists in the 10th annual student contest encouraging young people to create short film and art projects about suicide prevention, mental health, managing through tough times, the impact of the pandemic and heading back to in-person education. Students at Monache High School (Porterville) are among the regional and statewide finalists being recognized for their artistic achievements.
The program is part of statewide suicide prevention and mental health efforts funded by county agencies and administered by the California Mental Health Services Authority. The annual art and film contest goes beyond encouraging artistic endeavors to encourage young people to be mindful of their mental health and seek help for themselves and their peers.
In a recently released advisory, the Surgeon General cited youth mental health as an urgent public health issue and called on schools and community-based organizations to support the mental health of children and youth in educational settings, providing a continuum of supports to meet the social, emotional, behavioral, and mental health needs of children and youth.
“Student mental health has been challenged by the pandemic in ways we could not have imagined. We knew it would be tough, but I don’t think anyone anticipated the degree of impact the isolation, stress, and changes had on our students. The Directing Change program provides young people with a powerful platform to share their struggles, victories and insights through art and film. Real transformation happens when students are seen and heard and when we create environments where young people feel supported in reaching out for help,” said Don Collins, Torrey Pines High School Social-Emotional Learning Coordinator, who has been involved with program for the past 10 years.
The pandemic exacerbated many risk factors for suicide and eroded protective factors by isolating children and youth from social and environmental support systems. This increased the need to focus on supporting students through prevention and early intervention efforts. Programs like Directing Change raise mental health awareness and empower youth to have difficult conversations, look for mental health warning signs, and know when and where to get help.
The program has recently captured the attention of researchers at New York University.
“This is a uniquely youth-directed program, in which films are made by youth, for youth. By involving a single student and their advisor, or a single classroom or after-school club, Directing Change has the potential to reduce stigma, open the conversation about suicide, foster youth leadership, and be a catalyst for community-wide change,” said Pamela A. Morris, Ph.D of the NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
“Our youth filmmakers created unique and educational films, expressing the importance of mental health awareness, while remaining hopeful and reminding their peers they are not alone. Youth are experiencing a time unlike any we’ve ever been through, and we are grateful that we create space for them to process and express how they feel, while learning valuable coping and suicide prevention skills,” said Shanti Bond- Martinez, Senior Program Manager.
Students who created a first-place winning film will be recognized at a virtual ceremony featured on Facebook Live on May 17, 2022, at 7 p.m. Facebook Event: https://fb.me/e/4iB3XD33p
Region 4 Suicide Prevention Finalists from Tulare County
Third Place Suicide Prevention: “You Are Not Alone”
Monache High School
Filmmakers: Manny Cha and Salvador Renteria
Advisor: Robert Styles
About Directing Change
Directing Change launched during the 2012 school year and is a suicide prevention and mental health promotion program that draws on developmental and educational theory in its approach. By following the program’s submission guidelines to create short (30 and 60-second) films or art projects, students learn about suicide prevention, mental health and other social justice and critical health topics; discuss and apply that knowledge in peer groups; and communicate positive, youth-focused, action-oriented messages to peers and adults in their communicates. The program is free to schools and supported by the California Department of Education. Directing Change is part of statewide efforts to prevent suicide, reduce stigma and discrimination to related to mental illness, and to promote the mental health and wellness of students. These initiatives are funded by counties through the Mental Health Services Act (Prop 63) and administered by the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA), and organization of county governments working to improve mental health outcomes for individuals, families, and communities. For more information visit www.DirectingChangeCA.org.

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