BANGOR, Maine — Hermon High School junior Josh Devou has experienced the fierce grip of anxiety.
When he takes on the role of Christian, a teenager struggling with the disorder in a new short film, Devou draws on his own memories of panic attacks that left him breathless and his heart racing.
The film, called “The Road Back,” will premiere on March 21 to a packed house of more than 500 people at Husson’s Gracie Theatre. Created by Maine students, the movie tells the stories of Christian and depressed teenager Allie, played by Hermon High senior Natalie Johnson, as they strive to understand their illnesses.
Ultimately, “The Road Back,” written and directed by Faith Bishop, another Hermon High student, explores the stigma around youth and mental health issues.
“It’s incredibly effective to illustrate it in a dramatic way,” said Dr. Jessica Manaker, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at The Acadia Hospital, which executive-produced the film. “It really helps kids to personalize it, and [mental illness] happens to all kinds of kids. It doesn’t mean you’re crazy.”
Acadia plans to send the film, which it produced along with Portland youth nonprofit Project AWARE, to every interested middle and high school in the state at no charge.
The premiere has sold out, but plans are in the works to air the movie in April on WABI-TV, according to Acadia spokesman Alan Comeau. DVDs also will be available through Acadia’s website by the end of the week, he said.
A trailer for “The Road Back” and behind-the-scenes videos are online at www.acadiatheroadback.org.
The 35-minute film was funded by Acadia, the Davis Family Foundation, Bingham Program, Spring Harbor Hospital in Westbrook, and Bangor Savings Bank.
More than 200 students participated in the film, many from the greater Bangor area. A number spoke openly about their personal struggles with anxiety and depression, Comeau said.
While the adolescent years are characterized by tumult, changes in mood or behavior that interfere with a teen’s daily life should be considered red flags, Manaker said. Irritability, sadness, hopelessness, low energy and loss of interest in social activities can signal a need for professional help, she said.
Acadia offers evaluations, therapy, day treatment and inpatient services for children and teens, as well as substance abuse services. To connect with youth services at Acadia, call 973-6100 or 800-640-1211.
“With early intervention, we have a better chance of helping people move beyond this,” Manaker said.