A study of a program that sponsors students and young adults in making films about suicide prevention shows that the program has raised the awareness level among its participants.

Directing Change, part of Each Mind Matters: California’s Mental Health Movement, conducted its annual contest earlier this year. It invited people 14 to 25 years old to make brief films in the style of a public service announcement about suicide prevention.

Foothill High School in Pleasanton submitted an entry. The film, titled “Years Unfold,” finished first in a region that included 20 counties stretching from Ventura County in the south, to San Francisco, jumping across the Bay to Alameda and Contra Costa counties, and over to the Central Valley, as far south as Kern County.

The Foothill filmmakers were Cassie Wang, Daniel Do, Shelley Ho, Sami Nasser, and Sabrina Chen. Video production teacher Scott Sears said that the students were so motivated and self-directed that they did not need any help from him.

The study by the National Opinion Resource Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago, compared 131 students who participated in the Directing Change program with a control group of 268 students who had not taken part.

The results showed that 86% of program participants learned about what to do if a friend shows warning signs of suicide, compared to 63% in the control group.

Some 60% of participants agreed that people who attempt or complete a suicide show signs, but only 40% of those in the control group thought so.

Approximately 58% of participants said they had encouraged someone going through a tough time and needing support to seek help from a trusted adult, counselor or health professional. That compared to 50% in the control group.

About 82% of those who participated in the program made a personal effort to learn more about mental health by visiting a website or participating in a class project within the past 12 months. In the control group, only 41% made such an effort.

Each Mind Matters represents a coalition that includes nearly all California counties. The counties work regionally or statewide on programs to promote mental health awareness and education.