Depression has no culture.
This is the message four Clovis East students set out to illustrate in a 60-second public service announcement on suicide prevention.
Their video won second place — and a $500 prize — in a statewide filmmaking contest called Directing Change, which aims to fight stigma around mental health challenges and prevent suicide.
Maegan Ankenman, a senior, junior Adryauna Speer, sophomore Caitlin Luster and freshman Malia Willison were in a peer counseling class this semester with advisor Derrick Davis.
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“As peer counselors we’re a group of kids that go around counseling other kids that need it,” Adryauna said. “We talk about things that nobody else talks about. Situations come up that fall into that category (depression and suicide prevention) and we have to learn to deal with it.”
Davis learned about the film contest via a forwarded email from Gateway/Enterprise counselor Denise Sandifer.
“I thought this is perfect for our kids,” Davis said. “As peer counselors this is what we deal with on a daily basis.”
There was just one setback.
“As a peer counseling and health teacher, I have no video equipment,” Davis said.
He contacted Directing Change and through it, Brian Bishop of the Fresno County Behavioral Health Department came to the rescue.
“He volunteered to come out and talk to my students about the competition and allowed them to use his videoing equipment, the camera, lighting, all of it,” Davis said. “We would not have been able to compete if it hadn’t been for him.”
Three groups of peer counselors created videos to learn more about depression and suicide prevention in hopes of helping their peers.
“We thought this was a great opportunity for our kids to impact our community and to continue to empower students and let them know that they are difference-makers,” Davis said.
The group led by Maegan set out to find Clovis East students — and a teacher — who spoke different languages and represented different cultures.
“The different cultures represented in the video were Mexican, German, British, French and Laos,” Caitlin said. “We wanted to show diversity.”
Participants read from a script, written by Maegan, that listed signs of depression: loss of interest in activities, difficulty concentrating, trouble sleeping, change in eating habits, aches and pains, sad, empty feeling, fatigue, feeling worthless and thoughts of suicide.
In the film, English subtitles flash across the screen as each speaker addresses the audience in his or her own language. Then each speaks English, calling for all cultures to come together as one.
“We are one, after all, you and I. Together we suffer, together exist and forever will recreate each other,” they say.
The PSA ends with instructions for those who think someone might be at risk for suicide: tell a trusted adult or call 911 or the Central Valley Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-888-506-5991.
The group estimated they shot footage in about one hour and then spent weeks editing it to whittle it down to 60 seconds.
The fourth annual youth film contest received 451 submissions from 91 high schools and 35 colleges and youth organizations in the state. Winners were presented with trophies and cash prizes at Alex Theatre in Glendale on May 20.
“The awards ceremony was different than what we all thought,” Adryauna said. “We thought it would be a smaller thing. We didn’t realize how big of a thing it was that we did.”
“We got big, giant, beautiful trophies and T-shirts and backpacks,” added Caitlyn.
The film might also get a larger audience.
The winning films will be compiled on a DVD and made available to schools and mental health agencies throughout the state. They will also be integrated into statewide mental illness stigma reduction and suicide prevention social marketing campaigns.
▪ To view the winning films, visit www.directingchange.org/2016-winners.