PETALING JAYA: Discussions on mental health have long been considered taboo, especially among Asians, and Malaysia is no exception.
When someone says they are depressed or have difficulties expressing their emotions in a healthy way, they are often told: “Cheer up, it’s not that bad!” Otherwise: “It’s all about your mindset and attitude”, or “Many people have it worse than you, OK?”
Not only do these responses disregard the person’s feelings, they usually add more negative thoughts on top of their existing ones, worsening their mental state.
This is why “My Mind on Film” was founded. A joint effort between the Centre for Mental Health and Wellbeing of HELP University, the Malaysian Mental Health Association (MMHA), and Golden Screen Cinemas (GSC), this short-film festival aims to inspire and promote expression, reduce stigma, and promote understanding when it comes to mental health.
Speaking with FMT Lifestyle, psychology students Wan Nong Danial and Desiree Alicia Edmund said the festival places focus on Malaysians and local contexts, drawing on the voices of youths.
It is part of HELP University’s academic research training, an initiative to expose students to “different things outside of the classroom and to gain extra experience before we graduate”, Danial explained.
“Our mission is to spread awareness of mental health through a unique medium, not just through conventional talks and speeches,” Edmund added.
The festival kicked off in 2020 as a largely student-run event on campus. More collaborators have since joined the cause, including the NGOs Naluri, which provides personalised care for physical and mental health, and Nyawa, a mental health aid association.
“People must have been feeling a lot of anxiety and stress from pandemic-related lockdowns and multiple flooding over the past few years, so we think it’s useful to spread the message that, with a good support system, you too can heal,” Danial said.
To that end, “My Mind on Film” is inviting submissions from Malaysian high schoolers (15- to 17-year-olds), as well as local and international young adults (aged 18 to 25).
Your short film, which should touch on the topic of mental health, can feature concepts including but not limited to spoken poetry, dance, animation, or original music, and should be based on this year’s theme, “Revival”.
Videos must be between one and eight minutes, in any format and adhering to Malaysia’s PG-13 rating.
Participants stand to win a grand prize of RM30,000 to create a mental health public-service-announcement (PSA) film that will be screened in GSC cinemas, as well as smaller cash awards and other prizes.
The films will be judged by a panel that includes Malaysian Mental Health Association president Dr Andrew Mohanraj, Freedom Film Network co-founder Brenda Danker, and Grim Film producer Edward Lim.
Through these short films, the organisers hope that viewers who suffer fron similar problems will realise they are not alone. “We want to promote that it happens to the best of us, no matter your race, gender, or religion,” Edmund pointed out.
Added Danial: “Another message we want to put out there is this – you are not your illness, and it doesn’t define you.”