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Documentary exploring schools' efforts to address student mental health premiering

The Lincoln Journal Star - 1/13/2019

Jan. 13--Nebraska Loves Public Schools' newest film tackles one of the biggest issues teachers and administrators say they face today: students' mental health issues.

The nonprofit organization, which is backed by the Sherwood Foundation and supports public schools through film, has produced 11 half-hour or hour-long documentaries on various issues facing schools, including poverty, helping refugees and immigrants, and school choice.

"The Mind Inside" explores the impact of mental health issues on schools, students, family and the community.

Many students have experienced trauma, school officials say, some suffer from depression or anxiety or problems with their peers, all of which can get in the way of learning.

Sally Nelson Barrett is the director and executive producer of the film, which will be showing in Lincoln on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Marcus Edgewood Cinema. The movie will premier on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Film Streams Dundee in Omaha. Tickets for the Lincoln performance are available at Proceeds will be donated to local nonprofits that support students.

A panel discussion will follow the Lincoln premier. Panelists include Brenda Leggiadro, Lincoln Public Schools coordinator of counselors and school social workers; Gabby Danner, a Lincoln High School social worker; Rose Hood-Buss, executive director of the HUB; and Wendy Van, president of the Foundation for LPS.

A "take action" reception will follow with various nonprofits on hand so viewers can learn ways to connect with mental health resources in Lincoln.

The documentary premiering Wednesday will be the first in a four-part series, said Brittany Mascio, director of marketing for Nebraska Loves Public Schools.

"The first episode is what we're calling 101 -- a way for us to understand that mental health is something that affects students in school today," she said. "The episode captures what happens in a school counselor's office. That's really what we tried to do, be a fly on the wall."

The next episodes will focus on the science of what's happening with students, the challenges in both rural and urban settings, the impact of social media, and short- and long-term solutions.

The movie features public schools in Crete, Elkhorn, Exeter-Milligan, Millard, Ralston, Seward, Wilber-Clatonia, Educational Service Units 6 and 13, Project Harmony (which supports child abuse victims and non-offending family members in Omaha), state Sen. Kate Bolz of Lincoln and Daniel Siegel, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and executive director of the Mindsight Institute.

The organization hopes to release at least two more episodes this year.

"I think it was the most necessary topic," Mascio said. "Everywhere we went we'd ask administrators and teachers, 'What's the biggest problem you're seeing in your schools?"

The answer, in all kinds of schools -- rural and urban, affluent and high poverty -- and all kinds of students: the mental health issues.

"It's everywhere," she said. "It doesn't matter, you have kids who are dealing with so much nowadays it doesn't matter what income bracket or neighborhood."


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