Student-Made Suicide Prevention Video Wins First Prize in Statewide Contest

UCR students Morrise Richardson and Jared Odom team up to create video with a powerful message

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — A video on suicide prevention and mental health produced by University of California, Riverside students Morrise Richardson and Jared Odom has taken first place in the Directing Change Student Video Contest. The contest is part of a statewide campaign co-sponsored by the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA) designed reduce stigma and discrimination related to mental illness and to promote the mental health and wellness of students.

The pair recruited fellow students to perform on the 60-second video, titled “Pain Never Lasts.” A powerful spoken-word performance by Gabrielle Adoh serves as the narration, with music was written and performed by Ashton Culbertson setting the tone. Richardson plays the student struggling with depression, while Leonardo Kim plays a friend who comes in to remind Richardson that he is “not alone.” Odom captured the images from behind the camera.

Odom, a sophomore English major from La Verne, Calif. and Richardson, a sophomore public policy and ethnic studies double-major from Vallejo, Calif., were in Sacramento on May 13, 2014 to receive their $500 first prize at the contest’s awards ceremony. The event, held at the classic Crest Theater, included screenings of all the prize winning videos, a presentation by Tom Torlakson, California Superintendent of Public Instruction, and awards  presented by producer Bradley Buecker (Glee, American Horror Story) and actor Max Adler (Glee).

The partnership between Odom and Richardson began when they met while working together on events in UCR’s African Student Programs (ASP) Office. Utilizing Odom’s video production experience that he had learned from his father, a freelance video director, they soon teamed up on a class video project, and later created a YouTube video channel called ASPTV.  When they saw a flyer for the Directing Change Student Video Contest, it was an easy decision to enter.

“Morrise and I both felt that it was important to create a video about suicide prevention and mental health. Both he and I could relate to the subject through past experiences.” Odom said. “These are recurring issues that need to be addressed in a way that people could relate to, especially within the Black community,”

They shot the first version of the video in just a day, but neither Odom nor Richardson was happy with the finished product, calling it too dramatic and exaggerated. “We also realized that we had broken nearly every single rule in the contest,” Richardson said. Humbled, they went back to the drawing board.

“We sat down and thought about how we could avoid the negative connotations and how we could improve the video, because it seemed too generic for us,” Odom said. “That’s when I came up with the concept of a spoken word to be at the core of the video.”

They reached out to Adoh, a mutual friend, to write and perform the spoken word narration. Culbertson was recruited to compose and play the music.

“Ashton made the music piece on his computer in just 30 minutes,” Richardson said. “Then we gave Gabby the points to hit in the spoken word. We played the music on the phone and recorded her on the spot.”

“We were both inspired by the lyrical potency of Gabby’s spoken word performances. She gives a voice not only to the narrative, but to the faceless college students suffering from depression,” Richardson added. “Spoken word is the best way to understand how someone feels and engage with audience to feel sympathy. The spoken word became the most important piece to the video, the missing piece to the puzzle.”

They also discovered that they needed a new name, as many of the entries in the 2013 contest went by the same name as their film.

“Originally the video was called ‘You’re Not Alone,’ until we found out that most of the titles submitted in last year’s competition were named that as well,” Odom said. “We came up with the title by carefully analyzing what message we wanted to give to those who were depressed and thinking of suicide, what would comfort them? We mutually chose ‘Pain Never Lasts,’ which is one of the final phrases in the poem.”

They submitted the video and waited to hear how they did. It was Richardson who slipped out of class to take the call telling them that they had won first prize in the suicide prevention category.

“I remember Morrise just running into African Student Programs office with the biggest smile on his face, just hyped-up, telling me that we had won,” Odom said. “It felt good to know that the hard work that we put into this video was admired and awarded for the production and more importantly the message behind it.”

Both Richardson and Odom expressed thanks to Adoh, Culbertson and Kim, as well as Kenneth Simons and Rhiannon Little of African Student Programs for giving them the opportunity to start ASPTV and allow their vision and important message to be shared.

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