UC Video Contest Encourages Creation Of Student PSAs to Bring Attention to Mental Health Issues

The UC Office of the President recently announced the opening of the “Directing Change” video contest for UC students, challenging participants to create a 60-second public service announcement about mental health or suicide.

The contest is funded by the California Mental Health Services Act, or Prop 63, and gives students the opportunity to win cash prizes of up to $1,000 for their submissions. The Mental Health Services Act imposes an income tax of 1% on California residents who earn over $1 million annually, and with these funds the new legislation now provides mental health resources and services statewide. Prop 63 was approved by voters in 2004 and supported the new UC student contest with $50,000 in funds — which will collectively pay for technical support, promotion, prizes and a spring awards ceremony in Sacramento. The deadline for video submissions has recently been pushed back to March 21 and all entries are required to contain the Prop 63 logo.

According to Gladys Koscak, a mental health specialist with Counseling and Psychological Services, suicide is the second-leading cause of death amongst college students, making topics of mental health and suicide prevention even more urgent issues at the campus level.

“Suicide is the second leading cause of death in college students so we want to make sure that we are bringing these issues to light,” Koscak said in an email. “Not only is it an important issue for our community, but we also want to make sure that people are getting the support that they need while they’re here in Santa Barbara.”

Even if students have not struggled with these issues first-hand, Koscak said “most people” have been affected by mental health issues in some capacity, such as through a friend or aquaintance. For this reason, she encouraged all students to participate and help to make a positive change.

“A contest like this can offer an avenue for some of these survivors to feel like they are doing their part in helping spread awareness of this issue and in turn, potentially helping save someone else’s life even though they can’t bring back their own loved one,” Koscak said in an email.

According to Brooke Converse, a spokesperson with the UC Office of the President, the contest’s main objective is to reduce stigma surrounding mental illness and suicide. However, she said the competition also looks to make a solid impact on campus climate surrounding these issues.

“We hope to influence campus culture around seeking help for mental health related issues and suicidal thoughts,” Converse said in an email. “This makes it easier for students to reach out for help when they find themselves struggling.”

Koscak said the contest was developed by “a few CalMHSA state partners” and was originally aimed only at California high school students, but after seeing much success among high school students last year, the contest was opened to UC students. Now that the contest is reaching out to college students, Koscak said students should take part, as she said the best way to fight stigma surrounding mental health and suicide is to break down stereotypes and realize that people suffering from mental health issues are not “scary and quiet and lurking in dark corners.”

“The people dealing with mental health issues are all around you in class, at work, in your dorm or apartment,” Koscak said in an email. “They are the ones that need your support and your understanding because they are real people.”

According to Koscak, CAPS utilized funds derived from Prop 63 under the Student Mental Health Initiative to bankroll their suicide prevention campaign that was begun last quarter.

“It is called “#saysomething” and the main point of the campaign is to emphasize the importance of being an active bystander. Saying something when you notice or feel like something is going on can potentially save someone’s life,” Koscak said in an email. “There are many resources on this campus that can come into action if we simply know about someone in distress.”


A version of this story appeared on page 4 of Thursday, March 6, 2014’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.