Ending the Silence of Mental Illness


Announcing NAMI California’s Recognition of All Ending the Silence on Mental Illness Submissions NAMI California will recognize teams in their monthly newsletter, seen by over 5,300 mental health advocates across California! This is a great opportunity to get your name and efforts recognized by the leaders in the field.

Mental health is a complex and sensitive subject that needs to be addressed with compassion and knowledge. This category has special content that must be included and specific content that must be avoided. See these documents, and the tips below, for more information:

Research shows that half of all mental illnesses start by age 14 and three-quarters start by age 24. But, an average of 6 to 8 years passes after the symptoms of mental illness begin, before young people get help.

In order to understand the reasons behind why people wait so long to receive help for mental health needs, it’s important to understand the concept of stigma. Research tells us that the largest barrier to reaching out for mental health needs is stigma.

  • Stigma is a way of thinking that says that certain people are less deserving of our respect.
  • Stigma comes from negative and incorrect beliefs, or stereotypes, about groups of people.
  • Fear of being left out or picked on because of who you are is stigma.
  • The effects of stigma can make you feel sad, ashamed or alone.

Types of Stigma

Stigma can be seen in the attitudes of those around us toward mental illness, but also in the way we judge our own challenges with this issue. Stigma can be found in numerous places and there are many types of stigma:

Self-stigmarefers to attitudes and beliefs within yourself.

  • For example, someone who is experiencing mental illness may think that they are unable to live a fulfilling life because of their condition.

Public stigmarefers to the attitudes and beliefs of the general public towards persons with mental health challenges or their family members.

  • For example, the public may assume that people with psychiatric conditions are violent and dangerous.

Institutional stigmarefers to an organization’s policies or culture of negative attitudes and beliefs.

  • For example, stigma is often reflected in the use of clinical terms, such as a “schizophrenic.” It is preferable to use “people first” language,
    such as “a person experiencing schizophrenia.”

People with mental health challenges often experience stigma. They get called names by those around them who don’t understand what they are going through.  These labels are based on stereotypes, not on facts, and they represent stigma – a fear and lack of knowledge that stops people from speaking up about their needs, that keeps them suffering in silence.

Besides the obvious problems of feeling isolated and alone that stigma can create, it can also delay the time in which someone gets help. This delay can lead to worsening of all the problems associated with stigma, further taunting, and increasing mental health challenges.

It’s our responsibility to strike down stigma wherever we find it. You can help break down stigma by learning more and sharing the truth about mental health through your film. You can help us end the silence.

Disqualifying Content:

  1. Films cannot use terms like “crazy” and “psycho” without explicitly communicating to the audience that these terms are unacceptable. If the film does not verbally communicate that using derogatory terms are unwelcomed, the film will be disqualified. Our recommendation is to avoid labels of any kind in order to keep the message positive. Some labels to avoid are:
Mentally ill Cuckoo
Emotionally disturbed Maniac
Insane Lunatic
Crazy Looney
Odd Wacko
  • It is important that films do not reinforce stereotypes and labels that could keep people from seeking help. Although there are many ways to show disapproval when using derogatory terms (i.e. body language), it is important to verbally communicate that using such terms is hurtful and inappropriate. For more information on stigmatizing words and how to avoid using them, visit http://www.disabilityrightsca.org/pubs/CM0201.pdf
  1. Films cannot include developmental disabilities such as Down syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, etc.  Though the difference between development disabilities and mental illness is not cut and dry, it is best to avoid making a film about developmental disabilities. films that are about developmental disabilities will be disqualified.Mental health challenges common to young people include: Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Eating Disorders, self-harm, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as well as issues that may not have a diagnosis, but have challenging symptoms that deserve attention and care. For a comprehensive list, please visit http://www.namica.org/mental-illness.php?page=definitions&lang=eng Have questions? Contact Lauren Hee at Lauren@namica.org or (916)567-0163
  1. Films should be sensitive to racial, ethnic, religious, sexual orientation and gender differences, with all individuals realistically and respectfully depicted.

Technical Requirements: The “Must Haves”

All materials identified below can be found in the Submission Tool Box.

Films should not be longer than 60 seconds: Only the first 60 seconds of a film will be judged. Any videos which run longer than 60 seconds will not be judged upon their full content and will be at a disadvantage. The title slide does not count toward the 60-second limit.

Films must include:

The following resources:

The following logos (All logos are provided in the “Submission Tool Box”):

  • Each Mind Matters
  • Prop 63
  • CalMHSA
  • Know the Signs
  • UC Students must also include: University of California logo

A title slide (not counted in the 60-second limit) that needs to include:
(A sample template is provided in the “Submission Tool Box”)

  • The Film Title
  • The Submission Category
  • Student Advisor Name (high school only)
  • School Name
  • County in which School is Located
  • Student Name (s)

Content Scoring Measures:

  1. Films should tell a story about how young people can support themselves or others living with a mental health challenge.  This may include, but is not limited to, standing up for themselves or those living with a mental health challenge who are being harassed, bullied, and excluded or in some other way discriminated against.  This may include interactions in online communities (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, texting).
  1. Films should communicate a message that is positive and hopeful. The film should have a positive message of support, acceptance, hope, and recovery related to mental health challenges. We are looking to you to tell a story that stands up to stigma. It should illustrate that a diagnosis of mental illness does not define a person and to debunk the myths that say mental illness is something to fear or to ignore.
  • Stage Notes: The good news about mental illness is that recovery is possible! With the appropriate help, those experiencing mental illness can live very fulfilling lives. The film should focus on a message that brings hope and positivity.

    For example:

    • Let people know that there is help out there for people living with a mental illness. That treatment and support work and that most people who experience a mental health challenge can recover, if treated early.
    • Focus on ways we can overcome the stigma that keeps many from seeking treatment in the first place, rather than specific treatments for mental illness (medication, therapy etc.). Focus on demonstrating that it is acceptable to talk about your mental health challenges, and to support friends and loved ones with such challenges.
  1. Films must use person-first language, which refers to people who are living with mental health challenges as part of their full-life experience, not people who are defined by their mental health challenges.  Using person-first language respectfully puts the person before the illness.  Using such language reinforces the idea that despite what people with mental illness experience, they are still people!  Using person-first language helps steer clear of stigmatizing language that may lead to discriminatory ideals.
  • Use:

    Do not use:

    I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I am bipolar.
    She is experiencing a mental health challenge. She is mentally ill.
    People living with mental health challenges. The mentally ill.
    He has schizophrenia. He is schizophrenic.
    She experiences symptoms of depression. She is depressed.
  • Stage Notes: Please keep in mind that this scoring measure is heavily weighted in the competition. To find out how many points are associated with this requirement, view the official judging form here.
  1. Films needs to demonstrate how those in the youth age group (14-24) deal with themselves, peers, adults, or relatives having a mental illness.  Please keep in mind that the film does not have to solely focus on youth; however, youth need to have some kind of role or voice in the film.  Keep in mind that the person in the film with mental illness does not have to be in the youth age range, but the film must depict how the youth can support the person with mental illness (i.e. students supporting a teacher with mental illness).
  • Stage Notes: This scoring measuring is less about the content, but if the film focuses on whether or not youth were represented in the film.  Research shows that half of all mental illnesses start by age 14 and three-quarters start by age 24. But, an average of 6 to 8 years passes after the symptoms of mental illness begin, before young people get help. This delay can lead to worsening of all the problems associated with stigma, further taunting, and increasing mental health challenges. It is important to create a film that speaks to youth and emphasizes that the sooner that someone gets help, the less time a person suffers in silence.

Tips for Producing Your Ending the Silence Film

Remember to review the Official Contest Judging Form for this category.

Be Positive

  • Communicate a message that is positive and hopeful, with an emphasis on the power of friends and family to provide support and assistance in times of suffering.

Be Relatable

  • Your film doesn’t need to talk about the names of mental illnesses. Sometimes, you can be even more effective when talking about symptoms that everyone can relate to, like feeling hopeless, anxious or alone. Visit http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=By_Illness for a list of mental illnesses and symptoms.

Be Creative

  • Your film should creatively explore the complexity of mental health challenges and society’s response. This is the chance for you as a filmmaker to show the judges your artistic ingenuity. Previous films can be used for inspiration but it is important to be original. There were numerous films in the 2014 competition that had students holding signs or using labels to portray being stigmatized. We are looking for you to embrace your creativity and run with it!


  • Let your viewers know that, in order to end the silence and stand up to stigma, it is important to talk openly and honestly about mental health challenges. For your reference, visit http://goo.gl/OAcWak for some common myths about mental illness and the facts that debunk. Feel free to use one or more of these in your film, but only if it supports the story you are telling

The “Things to Avoid:”

Films should not associate mental illness with violence or any other criminal behavior. Although popular culture and the media often associate mental illness with crime acting violently, people living with mental illness are more likely to be victims of crime. It is important to steer clear of perpetuating myths and stereotypes in order to produce an accurate, respectful and mindful film.

Films should be careful not to accidentally reinforce stereotypes of people living with a mental health challenge such as being dangerous, disabled or homeless, or being personally to blame for their condition.

You are in a unique position to give people who are living with mental health challenges what they, just like anyone else, truly deserve – friendship, support, or simply a respectful conversation – that helps them live a full and productive life.

For any questions regarding the “Ending the Silence category,” please contact Lauren Hee at


If you are experiencing an emotional crisis, are thinking about suicide or are concerned about a friend call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline immediately: 1-800-273-8255This is a free 24-hour hotline.
Directing Change is part of statewide efforts to prevent suicide, reduce stigma and discrimination related to mental illness, and to promote the mental health and wellness of students. These initiatives are funded by counties through the Mental Health Services Act (Prop 63) and administered by the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA), an organization of county governments working to improve mental health outcomes for individuals, families and communities.
Suicide Prevention Awareness Your Social Marketer, Inc.