SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — The 10th annual Directing Change Program & Film Contest announced the Bay Area region’s finalists on Thursday. The annual contest promotes artistic expression in order to support students coping with tough times.

The Directing Change Program, launched in 2012, is aimed at educating young people about critical health topics through the medium of film while promoting social justice. DCP is a part of statewide efforts to prevent stigma around mental health and reduce suicide rates, and is funded through Mental Health Services Act (Prop 63) and maintained by the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA).

According to the California Department of Education’s California Student Mental Health and Wellness Project, feelings of chronic sadness and hopelessness among students increased substantially since the start of the pandemic. The CDE also states that students experienced a decline in their sense of optimism since 2019.

These declines are worrying in light of the lack of mental health support that is available to California students. A report generated by the California Association of School Counselors states that up to 80% of students in our state do not get access to the mental health care they need.

Senior Program Manager for DCP, Shanti Bond-Martinez, said, “Youth are experiencing a time unlike any we’ve ever been through, and we are grateful that we create space for them to process and express how they feel, while learning valuable coping and suicide prevention skills.”

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Torrey Pines High School Social-Emotional Learning Coordinator Don Collins discussed some of the struggles students have faced since the pandemic, “Real transformation happens when students are seen and heard and when we create environments where young people feel supported in reaching out for help.”

A virtual ceremony to announce the winners of the contest will be held on Facebook Live on May 17 at 7:00 p.m. Karamo Brown from Netflix’s Queer Eye will be in attendance to accept the 2022 Directing Change Award of Excellence for Mental Health Advocacy.

To check out some of the winning student films please visit Directing Change Program’s website.