It’s intimidating, bleak and sometimes inconspicuous, and though it is viewed as taboo, mental health is a prominent matter that needs to be discussed.
Which is why Nebraska Loves Public Schools created “The Mind Inside,” a multi-episode documentary that sheds light on mental health, a topic that often lurks in the shadows.
Throughout the documentary, staff and district officials from Ralston Public Schools and Omaha Public Schools, local child advocacy organizations such as Project Harmony and students express the importance of addressing mental health, social and emotional challenges students face and where to seek help.
The first episode aired in 2018. In a 30-minute segment, staff at Millard North Middle School voice their concerns about students who deal with troubled home lives.
The latest episode “The Mind Inside: Part II,” which premiered earlier this month, delves deeper into the long-lasting effects of social media and bullying, a subject with which RPS Superintendent Mark Adler and his family are all too familiar.
More than three years ago Adler’s son, Reid, a victim of bullying, died by suicide.
In the documentary, Adler opens up about his journey with grief and promotes kindness. He also talks about the prominence of social media.
“There’s very few things that don’t get captured with a video or a picture, and then that comes back around and it’s that constant reminder, if it isn’t a positive thing, of what’s not right with you,” Adler said in the documentary.
“The Mind Inside” presents statistics such as 45% of teens said they are on the internet almost constantly; 60% of all children from birth to age 18 are exposed to violence every year; and 20% of children diagnosed with a mental illness don’t get services.
Students in the second episode discuss the pressure to be perfect on social media and the hurtful words that spread online.
Cammie Weland, a social studies teacher at Ralston High School, said in the documentary classroom cultures have shifted. She said because of cell phones and social media, students expect to be entertained in class, which chips away at the context she teaches.
And when students act out, Weland deals with it the best way she knows how — with love and support.
“It’s hard because there are some students, no matter how many times you are real with them, and you prove that you’re willing to do anything to help them, and you’re an advocate for them, they will disappoint you, they will hurt you, they will lash out at you and we always say, ‘We just love them harder,’” she said in the documentary.
Education on topics such as mental illness is essential, Adler said in an interview, and he hopes through this documentary people learn more about the issues.
“It’s a very powerful doc. I think it’s needed and it’s important for our society to wrap our minds around. Knowledge is power when it comes to these issues,” he said.
“Our world has changed so much with how we are so connected. Connected is awesome and we have to use it for good.
“Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen every day.”
While Adler is grateful to spread the message of kindness to all who watch the episodes, he said taking part in this project was like reliving the nightmare he experienced almost four years later.
“It’s a hard topic, but it’s important,” Adler said. “I think what we can take from it can help us down the road.
“If we can help any family to not have to walk this walk we are walking, it’s worth it. It’s worth every second we spend on it.”
To view “The Mind Inside,” visit iloveps.org/films.