Ontario Non-Profit Brings Mental Health Film Contest to Canada


September 29, 2020




Amid Growing Mental Health Concerns Across the Country Youth Mental Health Canada brings the Directing Change Program and Film Contest to students nationwide.


HAMILTON, Ont. (Day September 29, 2020)— Youth Mental Health Canada (YMHC), a recognized grassroots, youth-driven and led non-profit partners with Directing Change to bring the Directing Change Program & Film Contest to students throughout Canada. As anxiety, depression and substance use have been on the rise since COVID-19 began, the Directing Change Program & Film Contest offers an innovative opportunity for educators to expose youth to knowledge about the topic of mental health. The program provides instructional tools to educators, educational resources to youth, and additional resources to further learn about the basic components of mental health and coping. The program is free and offers $1500 mini grants to schools and cash prizes to young people.


Beyond the initial introduction and education around these topics, young people are invited to apply their gained knowledge to formulate and create key messages for their peers through short films. The creative process of filmmaking requires youth to synthesize their knowledge resulting in a deeper level of understanding, while also encouraging youth to have conversations about these critical health topics.


“Young people are the most likely to notice when a friend is in trouble and the Directing Change program prepares peers to recognize problems and get help for a friend or themselves. There is no cost to schools or youth to participate and in fact, schools and organizations can apply for mini grant funding to implement the program and youth participants can win up to $1000” said Jana Sczersputowski, Co-Founder, Directing Change. “With everything going on right now, youth are looking for ways to share what they are experiencing, how they are coping, and explore what drives them to stay hopeful for the future,” continues Ms. Sczersputowski.


Executive Director, YMHC, Sheryl Boswell adds “We know what works for youth with mental health challenges and disabilities in the school system and we strongly advocate for prevention strategies that demonstrate the value we place on the lives of all youth in Canada”. “It is more imperative now, that we see rates of mental health challenges increasing, that we respond with effective and innovative supports and services like the Directing Change Program and Film Contest for our youth throughout Canada,” continued Ms. Boswell.


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


Stan Collins, Co-Founder of Directing Change, stated “Sound education principles were integrated into the filmmaking process so that participants are engaged via all methods of the learning spectrum: to see, experience, discuss and apply”. “Together we can inspire a new generation to recognize signs of distress in a peer, reach out for help, and openly talk about mental health and mental illness,” continued Mr. Collins.


Available for Interviews:

Sheryl Boswell, Executive Director, Youth Mental Health Canada

Stan Collins, Co-Founder, Directing Change


How to Participate

The program is open to students in middle school and high school and up to age 25.  To participate, review contest rules and submission guidelines at ymhc.directingchange.org and submit 60-second film by April 1, 2021.  Schools and organization can apply for $1500 mini grants by October 21 by filling out this application: https://ymhc.directingchange.org/mini-grants/


About Directing Change

The Directing Change Program and Film Contest engages students and young people throughout the United States and Canada to learn about the topics of suicide prevention and mental health in an innovative way: a film contest. The Directing Change Program and Film Contest was launched as a demonstration initiative as part of Each Mind Matters: California’s Mental Health Movement. For more information visit: ymhc.directingchange.org.


About Youth Mental Health Canada

Youth Mental Health Canada (YMHC) is a grassroots, community-based, youth-led charitable non-profit organization focused on youth, family and community engagement for mental health education, support, advocacy, and change. The organization, based in Ontario, advocates for greater financial support of publicly funded, culturally sensitive, needs-based, innovative supports and services in healthcare and education. 

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