Since the San Diego Department of Health and Human Services has made such a difference with the “It’s Up to Us” campaign, I was thrilled to get the opportunity to work on a piece of it with the Health Sciences High and Middle College (HSHMC) student interns on a Public Service Announcement (PSA) and Outreach project.
My excitement in the beginning at the prospect of working on such a great campaign morphed abruptly into anxiety as September approached. As the mother of two high school boys, I am well-versed in the blank, teenage stare. I began to fear a small sea of disinterested faces. The students would be researching mental health topics, issues, terminology, and best practices. I would guide them in interviewing stakeholders, developing scripts and working with focus group participants. It sounded great to me, but would a group of high school seniors agree?
As it turns out — Yes.
Every Tuesday since the beginning of the school year, I have been directing 11 seniors through the process of developing two 30-second PSAs on reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness and aimed at transition-age youth (16-24). The students have also been responsible for the development, marketing and execution of a video PSA contest involving all San Diego County high schools. It gives the interns the opportunity to learn how to develop such a program, while also involving the entire San Diego County community in the importance of mental health awareness and the courses of action that should be taken to reduce the stigma associated with it. The contest is being promoted in San Diego high schools and invites students to develop a 15-60 second PSA focused on a mental health topic; the PSAs are posted on Facebook and a specially designed microsite for rules, review and judging.
These students have responded with enthusiasm to every aspect of this project. They can argue the finer points of research and baseline survey results. Their presence and preparedness when presenting to a group of community stakeholders would be impressive for a professional – let alone for 17 year olds! We plan to start casting and filming over the next several weeks and the students are beside themselves (so am I!). I can’t wait to see what these bright, determined and compassionate students will do next.
“Like” the students’ outreach page on Facebook: Behind the Change and visit www.behindthechange.org
The students write in a journal every week so they will have a record of their journey. One student’s entry:
“So far, I absolutely adore this program…It is in short, brilliant. It’s fun and exciting but at the same time, we’re actively taking a step in greatly improving our community…I am looking forward to the rest of this internship and for all the great things to come!”
Traci Baillie Miller
Human Resources and Outreach Services Manager