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Contest helps teens, young adults visualize the conversation about mental health



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Southern Utah University art student Lauryn Batista wants to talk about scribbles. That's how she visualizes the anxiety and depression she's dealt with for the past few years.

Batista used those scribbles in an animated entry for a short film contest called Healing Out Loud, designed to start conversations about mental health. Sponsors — the Huntsman Mental Health Institute, the University of Utah, the Utah Film Center, and the Utah System of Higher Education — asked teens and young adults to share their vision of "healing out loud" in 30 seconds or less.

Batista animated a poem she wrote:

"When things get better, I'll take care of you the way that I should have. I'll sing your praises in poetry and laugh like a hundred birds at dawn and dance like my body's a firework, never again will I bleed on your joy or tear at your love or be who you think I've been."

"I feel like depression makes me into a person I don't necessarily want to be," she said. "Depression makes me seem cold and distant to other people. It makes me feel like a liar sometimes that I have to make all these excuses to cover up how I feel."

For the video, she filmed herself, rotoscoped the video, and then added scribbles and other images.

"Scribbles have always kind of been my way of representing (mental illness). Issues with mental health kind of being in every aspect of your life, they're always around you, they're always in your head there, it feels like it's constantly covering up the person that you want to be."

Art, she said, has helped her.

"Expressing myself through art has always made it feel like it was more tangible, something that I could deal with and I could face rather than just this imaginary idea in my head," she said.

Entrant Josh Davis drew on his experience with panic attacks. In the video he produced, a young woman in a classroom who appears to be falling into and out of different scenes — fireworks, honking cars, a group of people talking — and when someone asks if she needs help, she stops falling.

"It feels like you're falling even though you're just wherever you are," Davis said.

"I wish we weren't afraid to start those conversations," Davis said. "'Are you OK? Hey, how can I help?'"

"We have to eliminate the ignorance and the shame and the fear associated with mental health and substance use disorders," said Dr. Mark Rappaport, CEO of the Huntsman Institute of Mental Health.

"We've got to get the word that if one has problems with depression, if one feels sad, if one feels anxious, if one feels out of control, there are things that you can do about it, to break down stigma, have people understand about the resources available to them, and change the message about mental health and brain disorders."

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Peter Rosen

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