Art with Impact Changes the Conversation on Mental Health through Short Films


Cary McQueen, executive director, founded Art with Impact in 2011, a nonprofit showcasing short films on mental health and leading discussions about their contents at live events on college campuses.

“Mental health is the defining social justice issue of our time,” said McQueen.

Diagnosed with depression in college, McQueen sought to use her Bachelor’s degree in photography and master’s in arts management to showcase mental health issues in short films.
The films are submitted to the nonprofit for judging by filmmakers of diverse backgrounds along the lines of race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, gender and non-binary persons. Winners receive $1000 and their film is archived on Art with Impact’s web site in their OLIVE Collection. The organization holds live events where three films are shown and then a discussion.

“Normalizing the conversation helps us feel less alone,” she said.

The film “Strange Fruit” shows us how racism affects a person’s mental health in a poignant way. The film “Little Elizabeth” is about a woman’s long walk to the beach in California dissecting her history of sexual abuse. There are films about sexual violence, gender violence, depression and almost every mental health issue one can think of. Only a few minutes longer than a PSA, the impact of the storytelling in each film reflects real people talking about their mental health or better yet showing it in images. There are over 70 films as filmmakers submit their work every month to the contest. They have nine different nationalities of filmmakers. Many are from indigenous communities.

McQueen said that on their site they include instructions on how to watch the films and what to do and where to go if one is triggered by them. The organization trains people who want to lead discussions with the films on how to help people who may get triggered from them.

The metrics of the power of these films are that 81 percent of the people attending the workshops are inspired afterward to seek support for themselves, said McQueen. “The magic happens when people experience art together, then talk about it.”

Since COVID, they offer online workshops for college students to discuss the films. When workshops are held live, they have gathered at least 80 people, sometimes 300.

This year they are premiering films about queer mental health and how mental health impacts masculinity in June.

The entire collection of films are archived on their web site.

The web site is funded through grants and is free. You can watch OLIVE Collection films or submit a five-minute film of your own over here at

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