November 30, 2022

MISC (Media Institute for Social Change) Discusses Mental Health in Media

By Amaya Nakpodia

As the semester draws to a close, students may find themselves overwhelmed by final projects, major deadlines, and internship anxieties. These worries can exacerbate underlying mental health issues. On Thursday, November 17th, the USC Media Institute for Social Change, a USC School of Cinematic Arts organization, hosted “Got Stress?: Mental Health Matters”, a screening and panel dedicated to mental health awareness and advocacy. Attendees viewed an excerpt from the Ken Burns produced film Hiding in Plain Sight about young people, ranging from elementary school through college-aged, who are struggling with mental illness. Followed by three USC student films that also focused on mental health. The event concluded with a Q&A panel featuring director Lisa Klein, whose films The S Word and Of Two Minds deal with suicide and bipolar disorder; SCA second-year graduate student Kate Hanson, director of the film Shattered which was screened; and Olivia Wills, an embedded counselor in the SCA Office of Student Services.  

“When you talk about [mental health] it takes the weight off of it,” said Lisa Klein, “Providing a safe space without judgment can help let go of the stigma.” This sentiment was echoed in the screenings and reiterated by Olivia Wills.  “SCA has a strong culture around mental health and advocacy,” said Wills. “My job is to make sure students are taking care of themselves and others around them.”
 The panel also emphasized the importance of mental health representation in the media. For her film Shattered, Hanson, a character study of a young woman who contemplates suicide, Hanson wanted to focus on the “moment” rather than the “why”.  “I wanted to create an experience that ended with hope to show that it is never too late to reach out for help,” said Hanson. 

As a training ground for the next generation of media creators and scholars, SCA is also a place of anxiety and stress. The School is tackling ways to equip students with tools to navigate stressful work environments and the inevitable career anxieties. Wills pointed out that media creators share some of the blame for the stigma around mental health issues. “The media tends to depict individuals struggling with mental health as violent. This is a myopic way to handle a nuanced topic,” she said, “We sometimes narrow very nuanced topics into inaccurate simplifications.”

Monthly supportive workshops are also offered by SCA in partnership with Counseling and Mental Health Services. These meetings, facilitated by the Office of Student Affairs, are intended to address current, pressing concerns of SCA students. 

“Got Stress?: Mental Health Matters” is an important step in fostering communal awareness and normalizing mental health conversations. For more information about MISC and to learn how you can get involved, please visit: http://www.uscmisc.org

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