Trigger Warning: Discussion of struggles with mental health

Courtesy of UCSB Arts and Lectures

Resources: 9-8-8 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, provides 24/7 service

UCSB’s Arts & Lectures recently held two screenings of the documentary “Hiding in Plain Sight”on Jan. 31 and Feb 1. The film, which is executively produced by Academy Award nominee Ken Burns, aims to shed light on the crisis of mental health among young people in the United States.  

According to a pair of statistics presented early on in the documentary, 75% of American youth will experience symptoms of an onset of mental illness before age 24, and 50% of those will experience symptoms before age 14. 

The first hour- and 52-minute-long episode of the series, titled “The Storm,” was aired at Campbell Hall on Jan. 31, followed by a screening of the second episode “Resilience” on Feb. 1. The screenings were presented in association with the programs YouthWell, CALM and the Mental Wellness Center, alongside four UCSB organizations: Gevirtz Graduate School of Education, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the Division of Student Affairs and Counseling & Psychological Services (C.A.P.S.). 

The showing was also a part of the Arts & Lectures’ “Justice for All” programming, which aims to draw attention to social justice issues. The screening was also a part of the “thematic initiative,” which, according to Arts & Lectures website, “extends the conversation from the stage into the community, inspiring lifelong learning opportunities that initiate change and empowerment.”

The “Hiding in Plain Sight” series follows 20 young Americans of differing ages, ethnicities and backgrounds who are all united in their struggles with mental health and are now speaking out to draw attention to an issue that is “hiding in plain sight.” The documentary uses a wide variety of photography accompanied by testimonies from professionals in the field, however, the film is supported heavily through interviews with its 20 subjects. Throughout the first episode, they discussed their experiences with issues such as depression, anxiety, psychosis, self harm, drug abuse and the role that social media and society play in worsening these conditions. 

The screening of the first episode was followed by a panel moderated by C.A.P.S. Clinical Director Turi Honegger and featured six panelists: Gabriela Dodson, director of mental wellness programs for the Mental Wellness Center; Kristin Flickinger, the executive director of Pacific Pride Foundation; Eric Nelson, director of Counseling Services at Westmont College; Rachael Steidl, the executive director and founder of YouthWell; Madi Urabe-Myers, a Mental Health Peer with C.A.P.S. and Alana Walczak, the president and chief executive officer of CALM.

The panelists were first asked about their initial reactions to the documentary to begin the panel. When discussing the first episode, Nelson stated that, “the film calls us out to be there for each other.” 

Similarly, Steidl expressed the importance of receiving education on mental health issues in order to better understand and treat our mental health epidemic. 

“We eliminate stigma through being educated,” Steidl said. 

Furthermore, the panelists were also questioned on their reaction to the documentary as parents. 

“The child that you have is not the child that you were,” advised Dodson.

Walczak echoed similar sentiments. CALM is an organization local to Santa Barbara County that aims to “prevent childhood trauma, heal children and families and build resilient communities throughout the county,” according to their website. “My most amazing parenting moments have been when I have acknowledged my mistakes,” Walczak shared to the filled room. 

“Hiding in Plain Sight” is available to watch with an account on PBS LearningMedia, and UCSB Arts & Lectures plans to further highlight the importance of discussing mental health with another event, featuring Dr. Thema Bryant, who will discuss her book “Homecoming: Overcome Fear and Trauma to Reclaim Your Whole, Authentic Self.” The event will take place on March 3 at 7:30 p.m. at UCSB’s Campbell Hall.

This appeared in the February 9th Daily Nexus printed edition.