In New Web Series Out of the Dark, Young Black Mental Health Advocates Open Up about Their Struggles with Depression
Olympian Raven Saunders, Poet AKeemjamal Rollins, & Entrepreneur Hannah Lucas Share Personal Experiences in New Digital Series from Mental Health Campaign Well Beings
Washington, D.C. — May 3, 2021 — Today, Well Beings, the major public media campaign addressing the health needs of Americans, premiered its new web series OUT OF THE DARK, which explores three young Black Americans’ experiences with depression and suicidal ideation. The first episode, featuring Olympian Raven Saunders, is now available on WellBeings.org and as part of the PBS Short Docs collection on PBS Voices, a documentary-focused YouTube channel from PBS Digital Studios.
Debuting throughout May’s Mental Health Awareness Month, the three-part series showcases the personal stories of three influential youth voices in the mental health space – Olympic shot putter Raven Saunders, notOK app creator Hannah Lucas, and slam poet AKeemjamal Rollins. These three young people faced immense mental health challenges and ultimately found strength they never knew they had. Each episode takes an honest, intimate look at their struggles with depression and their continued mental health journeys.
The first installment “An Olympic Athlete Takes On Depression,” out today, dives into Raven Saunders’ faltering mental health following the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where she finished fifth in the women’s shot put at only 20 years old. Like many young Olympians, she felt a loss of purpose after the highs of the Games faded. Childhood traumas and confidence issues gripped her; she became seriously depressed and found herself on the verge of suicide. Her life was saved because she reached out to a therapist who was able to immediately get Raven the care she needed. Raven’s reflections in speak not only the importance of seeking help and of strong support networks, but also to the specific mental health challenges Black and queer Olympians face.
In the second episode of OUT OF THE DARK “I Attempted Suicide. What Came Next Is Saving Lives,” debuting May 10, young entrepreneur Hannah Lucas shares the story of her chronic illness, and subsequent struggles with anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. These experiences inspired her to develop the app notOK with her brother, which provides its over 100,000 users with immediate mental health support at the press of a button. Hannah discusses the massive impact notOK has had on her mental health and the lives it has saved across the country.
Poet AKeemjamal Rollins, known for his viral slam poetry piece “Suicide Note,” shares his journey in the series’ third and final installment “My Suicide Note: One Poet’s Journey Through Depression,” premiering May 17. The episode examines the story behind his poem: kicked out of his home at 14 after coming out to his mother, he experienced bullying, homelessness and depression. “Suicide Note” is based on the actual suicide note he wrote when on the brink of taking his own life. The poem ultimately concludes with an uplifting ending – the speaker’s decision to continue living – a reflection of AKeemjamal’s own change of heart and desire to stay alive. He has since become a vocal mental health advocate.
“As filmmakers, making a series on mental illness seemed daunting at first – how do you tell an engaging visual story about someone’s internal struggles? But once we started making these films we quickly realized that these are the mostly fundamentally powerful kinds of stories,” said producers Tom Mason and Sarah Klein of Redglass Pictures. “Each of these young people has faced a battle with life-threatening stakes and lived to tell the tale. Their stories are inspiring, unvarnished, and raw…and exactly what we need to finally shatter the stigma of silence around mental illness.”
Well Beings is produced by WETA, the flagship public media station in the nation’s capital. OUT OF THE DARK is a part of Well Beings’ ongoing national awareness campaign, Youth Mental Health Project, focused on addressing the mental health challenges of young people during this moment. The Youth Mental Health Project will also include feature-length documentary films, short-form content, user-generated storytelling, a digital and social media campaign, and educational curriculum to demystify and destigmatize health through storytelling created by WETA, with support from a broad coalition of partners.
A brief preview of the series can be found here, and the episodes will debut weekly over the next three weeks on WellBeings.org and as part of the PBS Short Docs collection on PBS Voices, a documentary-focused YouTube channel from PBS Digital Studios. To learn more about Well Beings and other upcoming digital and broadcast content, visit WellBeings.org.
About Well Beings
Well Beings is a multi-platform, multi-year campaign from public media to address the critical health needs in America through original broadcast and digital content, engagement campaigns, and impactful local events. The campaign begins with the Youth Mental Health Project, engaging youth voices to create a national conversation, raise awareness, address stigma and discrimination, and encourage compassion. Well Beings was created by WETA Washington, D.C., the flagship public media station in the nation’s capital, and brings together partners from across the country, including youth with lived experience of mental health challenges, families, caregivers, educators, medical and mental health professionals, social service agencies, private foundations, filmmakers, corporations and media sponsors, to create awareness and resources for better health and wellbeing. The public can join the conversation on youth mental health by using #WellBeings, visiting WellBeings.org, or following @WellBeingsOrg on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.
The Well Beings Youth Mental Health Project is made possible by Otsuka, Kaiser Permanente, Bank of America, Liberty Mutual Insurance, American Psychiatric Association Foundation, One Mind, Movember, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Dana Foundation, Dauten Family Foundation, The Hersh Foundation, Mental Health Services Oversight & Accountability Commission, John & Frances Von Schlegell, Sutter Health, Robina Riccitiello, and Jackson Family Enterprises. Partners include CALL TO MIND at American Public Media, PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs, WE Organization, Forbes, PEOPLE, Mental Health America, National Council for Behavioral Health, The Steve Fund, and The Jed Foundation. The project underwriters are leveraging their organizational resources to support Well Beings and have created a video, available to view here.
About Redglass Pictures
Redglass Pictures is an award-winning production studio co-founded by Sarah Klein and Tom Mason and based in New York City. Their body of work is defined by a simple idea: that short, cinematic storytelling has the power to touch, teach, and change people. Redglass recently won a Webby and Tribeca award for their four-part series, History of Memory. Before that, Redglass created a four-part installation piece on Vietnam for the New-York Historical Society, and was part of the team that won a duPont for their a twenty-part digital series: Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies with PBS. Ongoing partners and clients include: HP, New-York Historical Society, MIT, The New York Times, The Atlantic, PBS, and The National Academy of Science.