The Friends of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people with mental illness, is hosting their second Open Mind Film Festival on April 28. High school students from across the country are invited to submit their short films on mental health for a chance to win up to $500 in prize money and the opportunity to make a difference with their film.
Two years in and it’s no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on everyone, especially teens. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, many young people struggled with mental health challenges even before the pandemic. The pandemic has exposed and exacerbated our youth mental health crisis leading U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy to issue an advisory in December 2021 to address the youth mental health crisis in our country. “The COVID-19 pandemic further altered their experiences at home, school, and in the community, and the effect on their mental health has been devastating,” said Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. The Open Mind Film Festival hopes to serve as not just a creative outlet for teens struggling with mental health, but also as a platform to raise awareness around this important issue.
In 2021, The Friends of the Semel Institute received 76 films from high school students from across the U.S. Nine of the films were selected and screened at the virtual event. Last year’s films explored topics like eating disorders, social isolation, substance use, child abuse and suicidal thoughts. “We were amazed by the creativity, insight and empathy communicated by the productions we received last year,” said Vicky Goodman, Founder and President of The Friends of the Semel Institute. “We are looking forward to seeing this year’s work by our nation’s most talented young filmmakers.”
The 2022 Open Mind Film Festival will be hosted by singer-songwriter and producer Grace Gaustad, who has been vocal about her own struggles with mental health. A panel of judges, including Zach Gottlieb, teen influencer and founder of “Talk with Zach,” will select three winners. The festival is open to all U.S. students currently enrolled in grades 9-12. Submissions should be no longer than five minutes and must focus on a topic with mental health implications or reflect a mental health concern. The deadline for submission is March 11 and the virtual festival is April 28.
For more information about the festival and how to submit, visit filmfreeway.com/openmindfilmfestival.