Teen suicide movie wins Mental Health Film Competition

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A young Cape Town filmmaker, Garth Kingwill and his crew won the public and judges over with their film entry, entitled “I Choose Life”, into this year’s annual Let’s Talk Mental Health Film Competition – a joint partnership with Pharma Dynamics, the Film Industry Learner Mentorship (F.I.L.M) programme and the Mental Health Information Centre.

These aspiring moviemakers were challenged by Pharma Dynamics (a leading supplier of central nervous system medication) to produce a series of short-films on three critical mental health issues facing South Africa. The topics included: depression and unemployment, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression and suicide in teens.

The Let’s Talk campaign is part of the prevention-minded pharmaceutical company’s approach to shatter the stigma around mental health issues and promote open dialogue.

Talking helps

Mariska Fouché, spokesperson for Pharma Dynamics says they decided to use short films that incorporate young people in situations and real-life places they can relate to as a starting point to a bigger discussion on mental health issues.

“Getting sufferers, friends, families and communities to talk about their perceptions of issues like depression and youth suicide is the best way to start addressing stereotypes, encouraging treatment and getting all those affected on the road to recovery,” says Fouché.

The winning film features a number of suicide victims for whom remedy seems to be too late as they contemplate better choices they could have made. In this abstract, yet haunting account of the hopelessness experienced by people on the brink of suicide, the imagery and language resonates particularly with younger audiences, while effectively highlighting not only that help is available but that we need to talk about mental illness.

The theme of the film resonated with Kingwill as he once lost a close friend to suicide.

Teen suicide a huge issue

“Teen suicide is a huge problem in our country. Research shows that suicide accounts for 1 in 10 deaths from non-natural causes in youngsters, and for every young person who commits suicide in South Africa, 20 attempt to.

“I’m delighted our team won the Let’s Talk Mental Health Film Competition and hope the film will raise awareness about the tragedy of suicide and prompt an open and frank discussion amongst teenagers about mental health issues,” says Kingwill.

The competition

The competition kicked off during National Mental Illness Awareness Month in July this year where participants were given 8 weeks to produce their films which were then made available for public viewing via You Tube and allowed viewers to cast their vote for the most poignant film of their choice.

The winners were announced this October in recognition of National Mental Health Awareness Month. Mike Charles from KZN and his team came second with their production `Move’ and Carren Bost from Cape Town and her crew came third with their film `Speak Now’.

For more information and to view the films, visit

The Let’s Talk campaign forms part of Pharma Dynamics’ ongoing public education and advocacy efforts for mental wellness in SA.

Those suffering from depression or anxiety can contact Pharma Dynamics’ toll-free helpline on 0800 205 026, which is manned by trained SADAG counsellors who are on call from 08h00 to 20h00, seven days a week.  

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