Directing Change



The Directing Change Program & Film Contest offers young people the exciting opportunity to participate in the movement by creating 60-second films about suicide prevention and mental health that are used to support awareness, education and advocacy efforts on these topics.  Learning objectives surrounding mental health and suicide prevention are integrated into the submission categories of the film contest, giving young people the opportunity to critically explore these topics. Program participants – whether they are making a film, acting as an adult advisor, or judging the films – are exposed to appropriate messaging about these topics, warning signs, how to appropriately respond to someone in distress, where to seek help, as well as how to stand up for others who are experiencing a mental health challenge. In addition, schools and organizations are offered free prevention programs and educational resources.

Last year, the Directing Change Program and Film Contest received 1,630 film and art submissions from 3,508 young people, representing 216 schools and organizations, across 40 counties and Tri-City statewide. Directing Change films have been viewed more than 766,000 times online.

To learn more or if you are interested in an interview, please contact us.

Suicide Prevention Fact Sheet

Mental Health Fact Sheet


Since 2020, Directing Change has partnered with a research team from New York University (NYU) to evaluate the program. Data are currently being collected in a randomized, waitlist-control study. Preliminary results from a pilot study out of NYU and their Center (ARCADIA for Suicide Prevention) is available for review here. The pilot study included both a quantitative survey as well as qualitative interviews with youth participants and adult advisors.

In 2017, NORC at the University of Chicago conducted a comprehensive evaluation with 131 youth participants. Findings from the study found Directing Change to be highly effective in increasing knowledge, behavior and attitudinal outcomes related to suicide prevention and mental health and demonstrated changes in school climate. Directing Change participants were found to be more willing to engage in conversations aimed at suicide prevention and have fewer attitudes that contribute to stigma about mental illness. Furthermore, participants more frequently agreed that suicide is preventable, identified more warning signs and were more willing to encourage others to seek help, beyond their own social circles. View the report here.

NORC Directing Change Evaluation Press Release

2016 NORC Outcome Statement

Published Articles and News Coverage

2022/23 Media Coverage

2021/22 Media Coverage

The Directing Change team joined youth in a San Francisco ABC 7 story aired on May 24, 2022 and an ABC 10 News story aired on Positively San Diego on May 31, 2022. Directing Change winners were also featured in a number of other local stories:

2020 Media Coverage

Directing Change Program Regional Winners media pitching in partnership with RSE resulted in several local stories. In addition, the press release about the statewide winners, award ceremony and announcement of All American as the 2020 Award Recipient was picked-up by a total of 129 publications, then published 360 times nationwide. It was picked up by 77 publications in the US, 30 of those in California including: The San Diego Tribune, California Latino News, Sweetwater Reporter, and The Associated Press.    

2019 Media Coverage

Directing Change was a committee member at The Mental Health for US Unite for Change Forum on January 13, 2020. The event, part of a grassroots effort of the largest-ever collaboration of mental health groups around a national election, addressed the intersection of national mental health and addiction policy priorities and the 2020 presidential campaign.

Oceanside Spectrum interviewed Directing Change Program Manager and Suicide Prevention Specialist Stan Collins about the Directing Change Program, Suicide Prevention Month, and how to get involved with suicide prevention efforts. The films featured in this segment can be viewed here:

2018 Media Coverage

Red Bluff Daily News covered Salisbury High School students in Shasta County’s inclusion in filmmaker Jaime Weil’s documentary series.

Each Mind Matters announced 2018 Statewide Winners along with celebrity filmmakers and actors who received awards for their mental health advocacy work.

The San Bernardino Sun recognized Apple Valley High School student’s third place regional winning film “Speak Up.”

Chico-Enterprise-Record recognized Pleasant Valley High School and Butte College student winners for their films “Silence” and “I Am Not Ashamed,” which won second place statewide.

The Orange County Register mentioned first place winner Creston Brown for his film “First Steps” as well as winners Hallie Conrad and Megan Beehler whose films won in the Suicide Prevention and Through the Lens of Culture categories.

Directing Change Program Manager and Suicide Prevention Specialist Stan Collins discussed the release of season two of the Netflix show “13 Reasons Why” on KSRO Radio in Santa Rosa. Listen here.

Apple Valley students spoke with Daily Press about their third place statewide winning film “Speak Up.”

Regional Directing Change fi­lms are promoted with the local media and in 2017 a total of 15 stories about Directing Change were covered.

2017 Media Coverage

The East Valley Times in Shasta County highlighted Shasta High School students Zach Osterday, Owen Castagnoli and Eddie DeAvila, who received an “honorable mention” in the suicide prevention category for their film “The Missing Pieces.”

Del Mar Times highlighted Torrey Pines High School’s Yellow Ribbon Week March 13-17th, which included presentations and activities to educate students about the importance of taking care of their mental health. Coordinated by advisor Don Collins, Torrey Pines students’ Directing Change films were screened and discussed. 

Torrey Pines High School students were also recognized on San Diego Channel 10 news for their 1st place regional winning film “Light at the End of the Tunnel.” Cristian Aragon, Jose Becerra, Nick Meraz and Jay Butler discussed the importance of making films to change the conversation about suicide prevention and mental health at their school. Watch the story here.

In 2016 films received 18 news media stories and the following publications:

San Diego Union-Tribune, Clovis Independent, California Healthline, Davis Enterprise, Orange County Register,, DKS Media Solutions’ website, Noelle Cope’s blog, Radar Online, Victorville Daily Press, Elk Grove Citizen,, Victor Valley News, The Laguna Beach Indy, ChicoER,, plus an additional 208 online publications picked up Directing Change stories through PR Newswire.

KPBS Evening Edition and news highlighted the NAMI San Diego Directing Change film Screening on September 13, 2016.


  • Watch Evening Edition News coverage (starts at 12:15) here
  • Read the article and listen to the radio story here featured Murrieta Valley High School student Ben Finnie recognized for his film “Leap of Faith,” which makes a plea for those in need of help to take that step and reach out to someone. Read the article here.

  • “There’s such a negative connotation of mental illness, but it’s not something a person can help, and it doesn’t define who they are as people,” Walker said. “I think what’s most successful about the program is that it starts a conversation, and that’s how you get rid of the stigma.”
  • “Over the past four years we have received countless stories from youth and teachers who have shared how the program has opened up conversations in the classroom, at home and among friends,” Jana Sczersputowski, founder and project director for Directing Change Program & Film Contest, told TODAY.

The CW6 San Diego interviewed Directing Change President Jana Sczersputowski and shared films submitted to the contest by local San Diego youth.


The Elk Grove Citizen highlighted student Ryan Santiago from Franklin High School for his first-place regional winning film, “The Guides of Life” which also won a first-place statewide prize in the Suicide Prevention category. Ryan’s animated film is about one friend experiencing thoughts of suicide and how his two close friends try to help him through it. It encourages people to reach out to someone during those times; to not be afraid to reach out for help.


  • “It’s about one friend experiencing thoughts of suicide and how his two close friends try to help him through it. It encourages people to reach out to someone during those times; to not be afraid to reach out for help,” said Ryan, who used Toon Boom animation software to create his piece and plans to continue with filmmaking after graduation.”

UC Davis student Marielle Pastor won a second-place award for her film “This is Claire,” which creatively explores how college students can help fight stigma around mental health challenges. View the article here.

The Madera Tribune highlighted Madera South High School, Pioneer Technical Center and Minarets Charter High School students’ whose films received a second-place prize and an honorable mention.

PR Newswire shared the outcome of the 2016 statewide award ceremony which recognized first-generation college students, Amanda Deda and Alejandra Vaca who envisioned the creation of a short film that would express some of the barriers they faced when accessing mental health services. The first-place film “The Language of Healing” was submitted in the Through the Lens of Culture Mental Health Category.


  • “They hope that this film will deliver a culturally relevant perspective to those facing similar experiences and will encourage these individuals to seek support through the healing power of community.”
  • “The newest category encouraged participants to choose suicide prevention or mental health as a focus, but with additional requirements including creating a film in a language different than English and/or with focus on how different cultures view these topics.”

The Fresno Bee recognized Clovis East students who won the second-place prize in the Through the Lens of Culture category at the 2015 Directing Change Award ceremony for their film “Depression has No Culture.”


Torrey Pines High School students were featured in the San Diego Union Tribune for their first-place regional winning film “This is Me.” View the San Diego Union Tribune article and a link to their winning film here. sdtribune

Siskiyou Daily News highlighted students at Jefferson High School who met with clients of Yreka’s Six Stones Wellness Center recently to conduct interviews in the creation of their video addressing the stigma surrounding mental illness.

Students from Canyon High School, Katella High School, and San Juan Hills High School were recognized by the Orange County Register for their films advancing to the statewide round of judging.

The Claremont Courier recognized Claremont High School student filmmakers from the advanced video production program that received a first place prize in the mental health matters category and a third-place prize in the suicide prevention category.

Chico Enterprise-Record applauded Pleasant Valley High School students Garrett Havel and Tommy Angel who won first place in the suicide prevention category for their film “All That Matters” and students Melissa Roetto and Emily Allison won second place in the mental health matters category for their film, “You Deserve Happiness.”

During Mental Health Matters Month, Humboldt County highlighted local student winners in the Eureka Times-Standards and their own red carpet award event. 

Livermore Independent covered the four Pleasanton Foothill High School students who created the first-place winning film titled “Years Unfold.” The first-place winning film in the Suicide Prevention discussed the ways that high school students can intervene with their peers to help prevent suicide is a finalist for a state award.

The Record Gazette highlighted four members at the Boys and Girls Club of the San Gorgonio Pass who wrote and directed the video, “Speak Out.” The film depicts a straight-A basketball player who has started to lash out socially and withdraw from activities, and how his friends talk to an adult who connects the youth with help. covered Whitney High School’s broadcast program students who won more than a dozen awards locally, regionally, and nationally including first and third place awards for their Directing Change films. This is the greatest number of awards they have won in one school year.

If you are experiencing an emotional crisis, are thinking about suicide or are concerned about a friend, call or text 988 for the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (24/7)