How a shocking statistic led 17-year-old South Island School students Caitlin Chan and Mehr Chughtai to create an award-winning short film.
In 2011 the Mental Health Services interviewed 1,120 young people aged below 25 and found that 32.5% of them showed symptoms of depression. The youngest person with depression was only aged 12. We think that this statistic shows the severity of the problem and one we wanted to address in our short film, Afloat.
Depression is a mental condition that among other things, encompasses the feelings of isolation, alienation, and feeling lost and numb that we explore in the film. From what we’ve seen, read, and experienced, depression seems to be a prevalent issue in Hong Kong, especially for the youth, yet it is largely stigmatised, trivialised, and generally misunderstood.
We wanted to tell the story from the perspective of a teenager who is naturally solitary and enjoys being alone, but since this is deemed abnormal behaviour by her parents and classmates, she forces herself to interact with people and ultimately this doesn’t end very well for her. The film deals with several universal feelings particularly in relation to teenagers, although we think that adults can relate to this too. It explores how an introvert feels in a society that places greater value on its louder and more social, extroverted personalities. It also touches on how people can be quick to judge when they sense that someone isn’t what they consider to be “normal”.
We hope to encourage greater empathy and understanding towards people whose behaviour deviates from the norm, especially those who prefer being alone, but due to societal pressures, are forced to put on the facade of an extrovert to fit in. We also wanted to give insight of the teenage mind. Many are quick to write off the feelings and problems of teenagers as trivial and unimportant, so when a teenager has a serious problem, they don’t always get the help they need.
We think the most accessible organisation for young people is the KELY Support Group. They give talks at schools, have programs for the youth, are present at social events like Clockenflap and The Rugby Sevens, and provide both anonymous hotline and support-group counseling. We really appreciate the work they do and think that it is great to see an organisation that is so involved in helping the youth. At the same time, we would like to see a greater awareness of their services.
Young people need to know how to recognise the symptoms of depression and to know how to get help when they need it, and we think that to achieve this, schools need to be more involved. We would love to see effective education on problems like depression integrated into school curriculum and more awareness campaigns around schools.
Afloat won awards for Best Director, Best Editor, and Best Film at the 2014 South Island School Film Awards. Caitlin will be going on to study Film Production at New York University and Mehr will be studying Media and Communications at Goldsmiths University of London.