Real-Life Superhero – 1st Place Winner in Directing Change
Sixteen-year-old Jed Hawkins is your average junior at Del Norte High School. He plays tennis, enjoys being with friends, loves music, and is a creative storyteller. Jed has dreams of becoming a famous actor, helping people struggling with mental disorders, and changing the world. However, Jed’s daily life is also made more complicated by Asperger’s Syndrome. Asperger’s is a developmental disorder that makes socializing and focusing in school difficult for him. He often finds himself feeling depressed, isolated, and misunderstood. Despite these challenges, Jed continues to reach out, trying to make a difference in the lives of others. So, when he heard about the Directing Change Statewide Film Contest, he was immediately up for the challenge.
The Directing Change Program and Film Contest is part of Each Mind Matters: California’s Mental Health Movement. The program offers youth 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. Program participants – whether they are making a film, acting as an adult adviser, 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.
Redwood Voice, a local youth media program funded through the Building Healthy Communities Initiative, provided equipment, training, and support for youth interested in submitting to the contest. Jed worked with Makenzy Williams and Jacob Patterson, leaders of Redwood Voice, as well as community partners including Meng Lo with Harrington House and Michelle Carrillo with Building Healthy Communities. The message Jed wants to share was clear: he doesn’t want anyone to feel alone, and wants the world to know that we need to support, love, and care for each other regardless of any mental health challenge that may be complicating our lives. Fifty percent of us will experience a mental health challenge in our lifetime, according to CDC: U.S. Adult Mental Illness Surveillance Report, and Jed wants to end the negative stigma existing around these mental health challenges that affect such a significant portion of our population.
Jed created a 60-second film called “Real-Life Superhero.” On April 14th, it was announced that “Real-Life Superhero” won 1st place in the state in the Youth and Young Adult, Mental Health Matters category. This was the first winning submission from Del Norte County since the beginning of the contest in 2014, and Redwood Voice took first place over submissions from UC Davis, Mount San Jacinto College, California Baptist University, Pasadena City College, and University of California Riverside. Jed, Makenzy, and Jacob will attend a red carpet award ceremony in Glendale, Calif. on May 20th. They also attended a local showing in Eureka, Calif. on May 7, and presented at the local Economic Summit in Crescent City on April 29. Jed won $500 and Redwood Voice received $1000 to support suicide prevention and mental health awareness projects.