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Generation Next Mental Health Depictions for Storytellers.

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Presentation on theme: "Generation Next Mental Health Depictions for Storytellers."— Presentation transcript:

1 Generation Next Mental Health Depictions for Storytellers

2 Introducing Generation Next… Generation Next Features : Three “$4000 Cash Prizes,” one in Film & Television, one in Journalism and one in Social Media Recognition at the PRISM Awards ceremony in April 2014 Mentoring sessions with entertainment industry professionals and mental health experts Winner and semifinalist productions aired on, a global internet television network A collaborative program with Active Minds, a mental health organization led by college students Curricular resources for faculty and students We encourage you to join Generation Next and be a part of the “ART of making a difference.”

3 Screenwriters, directors, and producers have significant potential to influence public understanding and reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness. It Begins With Story “Stories are how we think. They are how we make meaning of life. Call them schemas, scripts, cognitive maps, mental models, metaphors, or narratives. Stories are how we understand our place in the world, create our identities, and define and teach social values.” (Dr. Pamela Rutledge, Director, Media Psychology Research Center) “Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact.” Robert McKee, Author & Professor As we tap into the psychology of characters, we begin to realize how complex human beings really are. The greatest battles characters fight are with themselves.

4 Exploring mental health issues offers the writer an opportunity to delve into and understand the complex inner world of someone living with a mental illness. Authentic stories and compelling characters can influence and encourage those who need help to seek help. Insert clip file #1 It Begins With Story

5 Helping the audience better understand mental illness can reduce barriers to treatment and recovery. “Colleges across the country are reporting large increases in the prevalence and severity of mental health conditions experienced by students.” (NAMI, College Students Speak) Why mental health matters? In the past year : 1 out of 4 college students experienced some form of mental illness Over 30% of U.S. college students felt so depressed they were unable to function Half of them felt overwhelming anxiety 64% of students who need help do not seek treatment Suicide is the 2 nd leading cause of death among college students

6 Stigma and discrimination often prevent us from talking about mental health issues except when a crisis occurs. For example : Someone harming or killing him or herself. Someone randomly shooting innocent people or committing other violent acts. In reality : People living with mental illness are responsible for no more than 5% of violent acts in America. People living with mental illness are more often the victims, not perpetrators, of violence. What depictions come to mind when we talk about mental illness?

7 90% of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable mental illness and/or substance abuse disorder at the time of their death, which is just one piece of a very complex picture. Many of these lives can be saved through early intervention. What depictions come to mind when we talk about mental illness? Whenever possible, we encourage the depiction of characters with a mental illness who are nonviolent.

8 Individuals with the same diagnosis may experience symptoms differently. “Since most writing is a personal exploration into new territory, it demands some research to make sure that the character and context make sense and ring true.” (Linda Seger, Creating Unforgettable Characters) Mental illness can be defined as psychological distress that impairs: Everyday living Work Relationships Social lives Family life Understanding your character’s history

9 What Causes Mental Illness? Physical (hardware) Damage: drug/alcohol use, traumatic brain injuries, fetal alcohol syndrome, dementia, neurological Neurological (software) The brain isn’t communicating: schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, OCD Environmental (use errors) PTSD Understanding your character’s history

10 Mental illness covers a wide range of conditions: Anxiety Disorders : PTSD, OCD, panic, social anxiety Mood Disorders : Depression, bipolar Psychotic disorders : Schizophrenia Eating Disorders : Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating Impulse control and addiction disorders : Pyromania, kleptomania, compulsive disorders Personality disorders : Antisocial, paranoid Insert clip file #2 Understanding your character’s history

11 Stigma and discrimination remain the utmost barriers to seeking help. The effects of stigma and discrimination: Isolation from friends and family Unfair treatment in education Discrimination in employment Difficulty renting an apartment What external conflicts could your character be facing? A character may not seek help because: Stigma Fear Concern about social standing or loss of job Mistrust Cultural norms Stereotypes Lack of information Insert clip file #3

12 As you develop your story and characters, consider the following: Tell the Complete Story: Mental health conditions do not define a person or character. The experiences that shape characters’ lives are part of the larger story. Look for ways to create realistic, nuanced characters with a mental health condition, rather than overly emphasizing symptoms to dramatize content. Consider using storylines, including the ongoing recovery process and impact on friends and family, that span multiple episodes to meaningfully portray the many facets of living with a mental health condition. How can we depict mental illness in a non-discriminatory way?

13 How can we depict mental illness in a non-discriminatory way? Choose your words and tone carefully: The person is not the illness. Emphasize that a character is living with, for example, a bipolar disorder rather than saying, “she’s bipolar.” Avoid using derogatory slang such as “he’s psychotic,” “gone nuts,” “acting deranged” in a way that reinforces discrimination. Consider using humor and self-disclosure, both effective methods for communicating mental health issues, in your storylines.

14 Accurately depict a character’s diagnosis A character experiencing changes in appetite, sleep, energy levels, or concentration can educate the audience about the common warning signs of mental health conditions. In addition to self-care, encourage accurate diagnoses and professional help. For example, your character may visit an experienced mental health professional to confirm a diagnosis. How can we depict mental illness in a non-discriminatory way?

15 How does culture shape a character’s values and belief system? Stories submitted to the Generation Next competition must focus on one or more underserved populations in California, such as: Youth and young adults (ages 16-25) Members of ethnic groups (African-American, Latino, Asian/Pacific Islander and Native American) LGBTQ individuals Rural residents Seniors

16 How does culture shape a character’s values and belief system? When depicting characters within specific ethnic populations or minority groups, consider the following: For example, A number of population groups believe that mental health issues are best dealt with “among their own.” Socio-economics, language barrier, stigma and discrimination, lack of access to treatment facilities play a big part in determining whether a person who needs help will seek and receive treatment. In addition, religious and spiritual traditions vary and greatly influence people’s coping mechanisms and views.

17 In the end, what matters most is the emotional impact the character’s journey has on its audience, and the underlying meaning of that journey. Portraying mental health in a positive light: Depict characters as not seeing crises as insurmountable problems, but looking toward solutions and acting accordingly. Show a character in a stressful situation thinking in a broader context and keeping a long-term perspective. Showcase characters who have good relationships with close family members, friends, and others and who accept help and support from those who care about them, which helps maintain their positive mental health state. Most people with mental illnesses recover and go on to lead very successful lives. Consider depicting characters who are professionals, respected members of their communities, and have successful families. What central theme does your character embody? Insert clip file #4

18 You can foster an environment that promotes social inclusion and understanding in your creative endeavors and in everyday life by following these simple rules : Avoid labeling people with words like “crazy,” “wacko,” “loony,” or by their diagnosis. Don’t rely on hearsay or stereotypes: learn the real facts about mental health and share them with others. Treat people who have a mental health condition with respect and dignity, as you would anybody else. You can make a difference…

19 The following resources are available at: About Mental Health: TEAM Up (Tools for Entertainment and Media) Each Mind Matters SAMHSA National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Active Minds MHA The Village Mental Health Resources for Storytellers About Storytelling: TEAM Up for Entertainment Depiction Suggestions Style Guide First Person Accounts Articles A New State of Mind : Ending the Stigma of Mental Illness (documentary )

20 Generation Next Film and Television Competition Application deadline: February 14, 2014 Semifinalists selected by February 21, 2014 Final projects submitted by March 24, 2014 PRISM Awards: April 24, 2014 Generation Next Competition

21 Q&A Our Partners: Radio Television Digital News Association

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