Swedish short film wins award at Health For All Film Festival

Mental Health Film Festival
Collage of images from Mirrors.

Mental health issues depicted on the big screen can resonate deeply with audiences, fostering dialogue and understanding. Paul Jerndal, an award-winning Swedish filmmaker, creator and passionate advocate for mental health, early on chose to channel his advocacy for mental health through film.

On 6 June, he was announced winner of the 2023 Health For All Film Festival category Very Short Film, with his compelling short film “Mirrors”.

Mental Health Film Festival
Mental Health Film Festival

The complexities of mental health conditions

“Through the medium of film, we have the power to illuminate the complexities of mental health conditions, initiate meaningful conversations, and contribute to destigmatizing the challenges faced by countless individuals. Films and other artistic expressions can serve as catalysts for dialogue and genuine support, truly breaking down barriers. Accepting this esteemed award is a tremendous honor, but above all, my hope is that it further amplifies the significance of mental health, reminding people that they are not alone in their struggles with negative thoughts.”, says Jerndal.

Mental Health Film Festival

With his powerful short film, featuring Swedish celebrities Anis don Demina, Cecilia von der Esch and Danny Saucedo as the protagonists, Jerndal dives into the depths of self-criticism and introspection. As the protagonists encounter their mirror images and confront their worst thoughts but also find their inner friend, – the spectator is taken on a journey of introspection through striking visuals and evocative storytelling.

Anyone can experience it

“Anyone can experience mental ill health at any point in their life – this has become particularly clear to all of us over the past few years, especially during COVID-19. Despite that, there is still a great deal of stigma attached to having a mental health condition”, says Ledia Lazeri, Regional Adviser for Mental Health at the WHO Regional Office for Europe. “That’s why film is such an important medium – it can help us see ourselves and our loved ones in those who are suffering from mental ill health.”

Courage to take this on

 “Films can also have a lasting impact on policy-making and public perception. When a well-crafted film successfully tackles mental health issues, it has the potential to generate public interest and influence policymakers to prioritize mental health in their agendas”, says Lazeri. “It is great to see the Health for All Film Festival contributions that have had the courage to take on this important topic, and among them, “Mirrors”.”

Mental Health Film Festival
Mental Health Film Festival

“Mirrors was made with support from a Swedish non-profit organization called 29k, who have previously collaborated with Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet featuring online psychologist chat services”, explains Jerndal. “It’s a great example of what art, partnerships, and different actors in society can achieve when they come together”.

Suicide prevention

Throughout his career in film, Jerndal has worked with national campaigns and non-profit associations in Sweden, and produced an award-winning film, “Steps for life”, on suicide prevention. Together with the Swedish Red Cross, he’s currently spearheading a three-year long campaign called “How Are You?” (Hur mår du?) for youth in challenged areas.

“Young peole’s openness, drive and natural way of talking about how they feel -if given the space- is both inspiring and encouraging. My dream is that friends, families, classmates, teammates – everyone, should dare to talk more with each other about how they feel”, says Jerndal.  “One of the girls in the project who said: “Somewhere in this world, right now, there’s someone who feels exactly the same as you are feeling right now. You are not alone.” That’s the exact line actress Cecilia von der Esch says in “Mirorrs” and I think it is so comforting and helpful for everyone struggling with their mental health.

1 in 6

Mental health conditions are very common, affecting about 1 in 6 individuals in the WHO European Region. Most people affected do not receive treatment, in part because of stigma. Increasing social contact   with people with mental health conditions, is one of the best ways of reducing negative preconceptions and increasing both empathy, awareness, and access to care.

For the 4th consecutive year, WHO’s global Health For All Film Festival received hundreds of submissions from all over the world, competing in the categories of Universal Health Coverage, Health Emergencies, Better Health and Well-Being, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, Climate Change and Health, and Very Short Film.

Since 2020, the Health for All Film Festival has gathered more than 4300 submissions from 110 countries, illustrating health challenges and opportunities people face across the globe.