Gabriela Sanchez Flores, Middle School Student of the Year and graduate from David A Brown Middle School in Riverside County, won first place in the SanaMente category. SanaMente is the mental health movement to reach California’s Latinos. It defines a commitment to the Latino community and captures the idea of a growing awareness of the importance of mental health, equity for mental health care, and inclusion for people living with mental illness in schools and communities. Her film “Puedo Enfrentarlo” (“I can face it”) highlights two middle school students talking in Spanish about their cultural pride and family history. They find that understanding their past can help them succeed in their future, especially with the support of their families.

How would you define mental health, and did producing your film change your perspective on mental health?

It’s the emotional and social well-being of our brain that also defines and affects the way we feel, think and act. After producing the film, I have a better idea of what mental health is, and I know what resources to go to, like school counselors and

As a young Latina filmmaker, did you feel any pressure or expectations in making this film?

Yes. I wanted to honor my family, but not dishonor them or make them feel guilty for the emotions we may feel. I wanted to make sure I could help spread the word to the larger Latino community.

What were some of the challenges to make a film during COVID-19?

It was very hard – we wrote the script and recorded over Zoom, but our editors didn’t understand Spanish, so we had to translate everything for them. It was challenging to get the editing and matching done. When we turned in the project, it was such a feeling of accomplishment that we made something without ever having seen each other in person.

What steps would you take to remind yourself to keep going during this past year of the pandemic?

I would meditate in the morning, go for a walk with my dog, and watch our chickens in the backyard. They would relieve my stress. I would step away from the schoolwork, and then return feeling refreshed.

What do you hope someone takes away or learns after watching your film?

I hope that Latinos can see that they are not alone and that there are resources specifically tailored for them.

What do you think is lacking in mental health resources for Latino youth?

I think there are resources, however, what is lacking is knowledge of these resources. I would like my film to be spread widely to the Latino community, so they can learn about

How did you feel when you found out your film won first place?

I felt very happy! I was excited that our work was going to communicate an important message to help Latinos seek mental health services.

How are you going to continue ‘directing change’ when you return to in-person school this fall?

I will keep on producing videos to help the Latino community and to give them hope that they’re not alone.

# # #