The Directing Change Film contest trains young people in mental health and suicide prevention through creation of 30 and 60-second films. There are five submission categories – Suicide Prevention, Mental Health Matters, Through the Lens of Culture, Animated Short and Walk in Our Shoes. Learning objectives embedded in these categories include learning the warning signs of suicide and how to help a friend, understanding mental health, healthy coping skills, and where to find help for themselves or a friend.

  • Currently open to young people ages 12 to 25 in California
  • Submissions deadline March 1
  • Mini grants available to schools and youth-serving organizations

How We Do It

The program engages young people by providing lesson plans and instructional tools to educators and educational resources to students. Youth apply knowledge to their own unique message about suicide prevention and mental health by creating films and art.

In 2016, Directing Change was independently evaluated by NORC at University of Chicago. The findings, summarized here, support the goals of the learning objectives: 86% of participating youth learned the proper response to a friend’s suicide warning signs after completing the program, and Directing Change participants more frequently agreed that suicide is preventable, identified more warning signs and were more willing to encourage others to seek help, beyond their own social circles.

Youth are exposed to suicide prevention and mental health information through the film category submission guidelines, educational resources, and the website, and then apply that knowledge to the art and film making process while also engaging in peer discussions. The art and films created by youth are then used to raise awareness and increase conversations in schools, families, and communities. The hands-on, “teaching for understanding” approach is designed to activate developmental needs for peer relationships and agency, facilitate deep learning, build students’ confidence and skill in helping peers, and enable action “in the heat of the moment.” As a result of participation in the film contest curriculum youth learn the warning signs of suicide, understanding of mental health, how to seek help for themselves or a friend, and how to develop healthy coping techniques.

Learning Objectives Translated Into Films

Learning objectives are embedded in the submission criteria for film and art contest and the curriculum has been independently evaluated to meet learning objectives. Anyone can read about the signs of suicide or mental illness, but to create a short film about them, be respectful, and think deeply about impacting the opinion of others requires a level of involvement that has lasting impact.