UCSB Students Receive Awards in State-FundedCompetition Focusing on Mental Health Issues

UCSB student Kathleen Oum won first place and a $1,000 cash prize in one of two categories at the statewide video contest Directing Change, which held an awards ceremony yesterday in Sacramento featuring actor Max Adler of the TV show “Glee” as well as the show’s director and producer Bradley Buecker.
Hosted by the California Mental Health Services Authority, Directing Change was open to all UC students and accepted video submissions that are meant to educate the public on mental health awareness. Oum won the top prize in the “Ending the Silence of Mental Illness” category for her video “We Are All Human,” while three other UCSB students also received awards. Fourth-year communication major Gabe Fox and third-year film and media studies major Carter Hiyama received second place in the other category of “Suicide Prevention” for their video, “Push,” while UCSB student Mic Dahl took home honorable mention in the same category for his piece “Labyrinth.”
The contest originally was only open to high school students, as a statewide campaign focusing on suicide prevention and improving the mental health of students. However, this year another contest was made for UC students from all over the state. Directing Change is funded by 2011 grants to the University of California under the California Mental Health Services Act, or Prop 69, which was approved in 2004 and levies a one percent income tax on California residents earning over $1 million and uses this revenue to provide mental health resources.
Inspired by the mental health challenges she has seen others face, Oum said she decided to enter the Ending the Silence category after hearing about the contest through her media internship at the Office of Student Life.
“I know people who do have mental health challenges, and I felt obligated to show them (and others facing the same challenges) my support as well as help to spread awareness,” Oum said in an email. “It was all about letting them know that they are not alone and that there is help and hope.”
The purpose of her video “We Are All Human,” Oum said, was to combat the stigma associated with mental illness and draw attention to people’s similarities rather than differences.
“Mental illness does not define someone as we are all, in the end, no different from one another. This is where my title ‘We Are All Human’ stemmed from,” Oum said in an email.
Fox said he and Hiyama first heard about the contest in an email, while working together at the UCSB Bookstore. Hiyama, who plays the main character in the video, said Fox came up with the idea for the story, which is about skating and spending time with friends and focuses on discussing mental illness in a positive way.
“The main thing that I remember from it is that we definitely wanted to have a positive message from it,” Hiyama said. “We didn’t want to make a suicide video that talked negatively about stuff. We definitely wanted to make it in a positive way.”
The video specifically drew attention to the idea that depression can be escapable, Fox said.
“Just the fact that no matter how horrible of a place or how dark of a place you’re in, it’s sort of like the grass is greener on the other side … that was sort of the concept,” Fox said.
According to Fox, he and Hiyama had thought about the idea for months before filming the entire video in one day. With so little time put into filming, Fox said they were surprised to learn about their big win.
“I know, speaking for myself, it was a big confidence booster,” Fox said. “I remember writing out the script, if you will, on receipt paper at work. We had gone over it, and we had spent some time on the script and the idea, and the shooting was quick and the editing was quick.”
Saying she was also surprised to win, Oum said she enjoyed the awards ceremony, particularly the opportunity to meet other winners and attendees.
“Overall, the ceremony was very exciting as I got to meet people who share a common love for film, represent UCSB, and potentially inspire someone to take action against the mental illness stigma,” Oum said in an email.


This story appeared on page 1 of Wednesday, May 14, 2014’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.