Riverside County students who created short videos aimed at reducing the stigma of mental illness and preventing teen suicide will receive awards next week as part of a statewide contest.
The awards will be presented Tuesday (May 27) to students from Alessandro High School (Hemet), Banning High School (Banning), Murrieta Valley High School (Murrieta), SIA Tech Perris (Perris), Tahquitz High School (Hemet), Valley View High School (Moreno Valley), Vista Murrieta High School (Murrieta) and UC, Riverside. Students from high schools in San Bernardino County also will receive awards.
The event will begin at 6 p.m. at the Fox Performing Arts Center, 3801 Mission Ave. in Riverside. The joint effort of the Riverside County Department of Mental Health and the County of San Bernardino Department of Behavioral Health is the first time such an event has been held in the Inland Empire.
Members of the media are invited to attend and cover the event, which is not open to the public.
The Directing Change competition is a prevention and early intervention effort created by the California Mental Health Services Authority. More than 1,000 high school and college students participated in the 2014 competition by submitting 60-second videos focusing on mental health awareness and intended to reduce teen suicide. More than 125 students from Riverside County and nearly 100 from San Bernardino County were involved in contest submissions.
Mental health among young people and teen suicide are national concerns. Approximately one in five young people experience mental health challenges in any given year. Half of all people with mental illness show symptoms by age 14, and nearly three-quarters by age 24. Young people often are afraid to talk about feeling alone and are at risk of greater harm if they do not get help. Reaching out to young people in a familiar, comfortable format – such as a short video – helps convey the maximum impact about prevention and intervention message.
Jerry Wengerd, director of the Riverside County Department of Mental Health, said he was proud to host what will become an annual event.
“It’s important that we recognize the talent and dedication of young students who have worked so hard to combat teen suicide and end the stigma of mental illness,” he said.
At the event, an expert in developing techniques and materials that can help change behavior will address participants. Jana Sczersputowski, who has worked for various federal and state agencies, will discuss the power and impact of social marketing as part of health communication, particularly as it applies to young people.
All of the videos submitted by Riverside and San Bernardino County students will be screened during the ceremony. More information about Directing Change can be found at www.directingchange.org.