In 2020, The American Association of Suicidology (AAS) partnered with the Directing Change Program and The Kevin and Margaret Hines Foundation to bring the AAS Directing Change Program and Film Contest to high school students nationwide.

Mission Statement: To educate young people about critical health topics through the medium of film and promote social justice by changing conversations in schools and communities.

We learn through actions and when we apply knowledge our minds begin to change.  Anyone can read about the signs of suicide or mental illness, but to create 30-second and 60-second films about them, be respectful, and think deeply about impacting the opinion of others requires a level of involvement that has lasting impact.
The Directing Change Program starts with exposing youth to knowledge about the topics of mental health and suicide prevention by providing instructional tools to educators, educational resources to youth, and additional resources to further learning about the basic components of suicide prevention. From here, youth must apply suicide prevention knowledge to formulate and create their own unique message about suicide prevention for their peers. The creative process of filmmaking requires youth to synthesize their knowledge resulting in a deeper level of understanding.   Directing Change, integrates sound pedagogical principles into the filmmaking process so that participants are engaged via all methods of the “learning spectrum”: to see, experience, discuss, and apply. Youth are challenged to critically analyze key components of suicide prevention and how best to communicate these in their films.  Once created films are used in schools and communities to raise awareness and start conversations about these topics.

Program Goals:

One: Inspire a new generation to know the warning signs for suicide and how to support a friend. Pain isn’t always obvious, but research shows that young people turn to their peers and family for assistance, but fewer than 25% of peers tell an adult about a friend’s problem.

Two: Change conversations about mental health in families, schools and communities and increase help seeking.  About 1 in 5 youth experiences a mental health challenge, but on average young people wait 6 to 8 years to get help from the first time they experience symptoms.  One major reason that prevents young people from getting help is the fear of what others may think, how this will impact their future, and simply not taking their mental health seriously.

Three: Reach young people from non-English speaking families, immigrant and other cultures to communicate about mental health wellness and suicide prevention through the lens of culture.  Changes in gender roles and expectations, issues of conformity and assimilation, pressures to succeed, and feelings of isolation and victimization can all increase the stress levels and vulnerability of individuals. Numerous research studies have demonstrated that young people in crisis who are from non-English speaking families and immigrant cultures are far less likely to seek help from the behavioral health system. These young people must grapple with real and perceived stigma and discrimination rooted in family-based cultural belief systems and in their status as outsiders in the mainstream culture.

Four:  Give back by using these films to advocate, change minds and possibly save a life.

View the 2017 NORC Evaluation Infographic prepared by NORC at the University of Chicago and the Directing Change 2019 Outcome Statement to learn about the impact Directing Change is having in communities across California.

The Directing Change Program and Film Contest was launched as a demonstration initiative as part of Each Mind Matters: California’s Mental Health Movement funded by the Mental Health Services Act (Proposition 63) and administered by the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA), an organization of county governments working to improve mental health outcomes for individuals, families, and communities.  The program was created by and has been implemented since 2013 by Your Social Marketer, Inc. As of December 20, 2017 the Directing Change Program and Film Contest is a nonprofit organization.  For more information visit: www.directingchange.org. The Directing Change Program and Film Contest engages students and young people throughout California to learn about the topics of suicide prevention and mental health in an innovative way: a film contest.