Open For Submissions: Art Contest Highlights N.H. Kids' Mental Health Experiences | New Hampshire Public Radio

Open For Submissions: Art Contest Highlights N.H. Kids' Mental Health Experiences

Feb 22, 2021

Bre Paquette shows off the sign she featured in her winning film project.
Credit Courtesy photo

An art contest designed to highlight the mental health experiences of children is now open for submissions.

The Magnify Voices 2021 Expressive Arts Contest is seeking short films, creative writing, or other forms of art from New Hampshire middle and high school students through the end of March.

For more on what this contest seeks to accomplish, NHPR's Peter Biello spoke to a previous winner. Bre Paquette participated when she was a student at Salem High School a couple years ago.

Note: The following transcript was machine-generated and lightly edited for clarity. It may contain minor variations from the audio as a result.  

 

 

Peter Biello:
Why did you want to participate in this contest when you participated a couple of years ago? What made you want to participate?

Bre Paquette:
So at this time, I was just coming out of suffering from depression for a really long time, and film was always my save spot. And I actually stopped doing it for a while. And when my teacher, Mr. Hazel, brought this up, I just got like this gut feeling, like a really good feeling, like do this, like, this sounds like really cool. Like, maybe you should pick up the camera again and start doing it. And it was really just like my instinct telling me to do it. And it was the best opportunity ever. And I'm so happy I trusted my gut.

Peter Biello:
Well, can you tell us a little bit about what your film project was?

Bre Paquette:
Yeah, so it was a mental health PSA titled "Mental Illness to Them." And what I did is I made a sign that said 20 to 50 percent of adolescents struggle with mental illness, how to show support. And I went to Boston, stood at a subway station and blindfolded myself. And I just let random people hug me and I had my mom film it. And throughout the whole video we just talked about, you know, breaking the stigma about encouraging others, showing that, look at this community, everyone's coming together to show support. You never know what people are going through. And it's very important to always make sure you have support and you want to break that stigma.

Peter Biello:
So what kind of response did you get? Did people actually hug you?

Bre Paquette:
Yeah. So for the first 30 minutes, it actually was the worst thing ever because no one hugged me. Everyone was staring at me. My mom is making such a big scene saying, like, we should leave. This isn't working. But I just I knew that if it started happening, it would be so amazing. And after 30 minutes, I had this one lady - I'll always remember her - came up to me and she whispered in my ear and she said, "I saw that no one has hugged you yet, but I'm going to because I think this is amazing." And the second she hugged me, for an hour straight, it was just everyone was just hugging and hugging and hugging one after another. I was like a huge ripple effect and it was absolutely amazing.

Peter Biello:
What kind of impact do you think these young artists can make even if they don't end up winning the contest?

Bre Paquette:
My whole thing is it's not really about winning. You know, I went into it like that was not my prime focus at all. It really isn't about winning. All those videos that you see...they all make an impact with a gold medal or not. Every single one of those videos has such a strong message. And it's able to help so many people, no matter what any type of thing that you can create and put out there. And the media are just sending it to people already leaves a footprint.

Peter Biello:
What advice would you offer to those who want to participate this year?

Bre Paquette:
Advice I would offer is if you're passionate about this, and if you think you have a good idea and you want to express maybe something you've been through or know someone that, you know, has gone through something and just want to talk about it, I think you absolutely should. It has led to so many opportunities for me. I became this Londonderry outstanding teen because of this competition, and it opened so many doors. And I think it's just going there and seeing everyone's videos and even the virtual one that we did last year. It really just - it's a great time and it makes you really proud of your work, and it gives you the ability to share your knowledge and what you have to other people.

Peter Biello:
Well, it seems like you're saying regardless of the outcome, the process is important and valuable.

Bre Paquette:
Absolutely.