Movie screening event opens conversations about mental health

By: Ashley Houston-Armitage

Students at Red River College Polytechnic were left feeling appreciated and overwhelmed by the support they received at the Movies for Mental Health event held at the Exchange District Campus on Nov. 18, 2022.

“The event was a great idea, I enjoyed being in a judgment-free zone to have those important discussions,” said Felix Cazarez, a Data Science and Machine Learning student at RRC Polytech.

Movies for Mental Health usually takes place at the college every fall, but this was its first in-person event since the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The event began with students participating in group discussions about mental health and breaking the stigma. 

“I have struggled with anxiety most of my life,” said Cazarez. “The event helped me realize there are resources for me, and that I have places to go.” 

Alondra Umana, from Art with Impact, leads small group discussions at the Movies for Mental Health event at the Exchange District Campus on Nov. 18, 2022. Students were encouraged to share their personal mental health experiences with the group. (Ashley Houston-Armitage)

Over the course of the event, students watched three award-winning short films, “A short film about anxiety”, “The Opioid of Genocide”, and “Shift.” Each film was about mental health, the challenges that come with it, and dealing with an individual’s inner demons. 

“I wanted to check out the event because I’ve had many years of lived experience with mental health,” said Ryan Rutherford, a Business Information Technology student at RRC Polytech. “Any opportunity to share or hear other people’s stories is very valuable to me.”

Students were given time between each film to take a minute for self-reflection and were encouraged to share their personal experiences with the group. 

“Our goal is to open up conversations about mental health and give students that safe space to talk without feeling judged,” said Breanna Sawatzky, the acting manager for campus well-being. ”We get feedback every year, and the students always tell us how grateful they are for this event.” 

As the event came to an end, students listened to a panel of speakers share their stories and talk about mental health resources available at the college.

“We try our best,” said Sawatzky. “Mental health is a complex thing and the college can only help control some of it. Every student is undergoing some sort of challenge, but I’m confident in the college’s strong support system.”

Movies for Mental Health was free to all students and was delivered by a non-profit called Art with Impact. 

Sawatzky said RRC Polytech has yet to finalize the details for their next event but encourages students to sign up for their newsletter.