Movies for Mental Health
Movies for Mental Health (M4MH) directly benefits one of the most underserved segments within the behavioral health continuum of care: young people whose symptoms are just beginning to develop, and the people who care about them. While there is wide consensus on the importance and effectiveness of early intervention and prevention as a treatment strategy for mental illness, very few large scale programs address these issues upstream.
Built around Art With Impact’s Online Library for Interactive Video and Engagement (OLIVE), Movies for Mental Health workshops have four components that combine to create engaging, welcoming and interactive experiences that directly address the self-stigma that prevents young people from seeking help before a crisis: 1) the use of the connective and emotional power of film and media to explore mental illness; 2) open dialogue with and between a broad range of college students around mental illness; 3) exposure to lived experiences with mental illness through student speakers; and 4) connection to campus and community mental health resources through panel presentations. This innovative structure removes both internal and external barriers to seeking behavioral health support, making the connection between it being okay to reach out for help, and the opportunity to do so.
At the center of M4MH is OLIVE, arguably the most diverse library of short films about behavioral health issues available. Currently containing over 30 films from 9 countries and addressing more than 55 mental health issues, it continues to grow each month through an ongoing film competition for which there is no submission fee to artists, and a $1,000 award for the monthly winner. Films in OLIVE range from first person, documentary-style pieces to metaphorical storytelling. The specific films for each M4MH workshop are selected to align with the lived experience stories of the local students who speak at each event. This coordination results in a demonstration that every behavioral health story is different, even when the diagnosis is the same. M4MH is the only program of its kind in how it offers students the opportunity to explore ideas through creativity and in community.
Art With Impact is committed to building the field of behavioral health through transparency and sharing what we learn. The breakthrough innovation of M4MH is that short film can uniquely address self-stigma and remove barriers to support in ways that similar tools, like PSA campaigns or class lectures, do not. Our format combines the best tools for stigma reduction -- contact-based strategies and educational tactics -- with emotionally compelling films and small-group interaction that allows participants to process complex issues in real time, with peers. The philosophy behind and implementation of M4MH is documented on our website where the OLIVE Film Collection is also available free of charge. In addition, representatives from Art With Impact frequently present at national conferences such as the American College Counseling Association and the Canadian Mental Health Association where we share our work and resources, and learn from the experiences of our peers.
Each Movies for Mental Health workshop costs $4,000 to produce. We ask each participating school to contribute approximately 35% of that cost. We have found that this amount is low enough to fit into individual departmental budgets but high enough to establish “skin in the game,” which is necessary to ensure adequate marketing and outreach on campus. Over time, schools who offer M4MH every year have added the program into their annual budget, ensuring both continuity and building the reputation of the workshop on individual campuses. Additional funding from the program comes from the Proposition 63/Mental Health Services Act, the National Endowment for the Arts, foundation and corporate support, and individual donors. Diversifying funding sources to ensure sustainability, AWI is actively reaching out to new foundations to expand on this successful and innovative program.
We are committed to creating opportunities for the broadest possible group of people to engage with our films and use our tools to create safe, productive, and engaging discussions. Because of the complex and personal nature of behavioral health, official M4MH workshops are led by trained AWI facilitators who are equipped to manage issues that can arise like triggering or unexpected disclosures. After piloting the program in California in 2012, we have successfully replicated our workshop model in three distinct regions of the U.S.: California, Ohio, and New England and in six provinces in Canada. In addition, our website provides free resources including guidelines for how to watch the OLIVE films alone or with friends, with your students, or with your children. These guidelines include tips for self-care and for creating a creative brave space, questions for generating discussion, and points to consider around engaging with the material.
M4MH workshops have been designed, tested, refined, and shared with over 5,100 college students in the United States and Canada. AWI has gathered extensive data about the efficacy of M4MH and the use of OLIVE on college campuses through a post-workshop evaluation that all attendees complete. After over 130 workshops, the results are showing powerful changes in students’ lives. In the 2015-2016 school year, 97% of students who attended the workshop reported that the event created awareness of mental health issues; 89% reported that the workshop reduced stigma around mental illness, and 76% reported that they are now more likely to seek support for their mental health. M4MH fosters discussions around mental health that reduce feelings of isolation, and increase awareness of local mental health resources. It also invites students to engage with short films and experience the power that art can have to share stories and invite dialogue.
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