Teen self-harm activist is back with a vengeance and ready to tackle the topic of mental health in her first ever short film, “A Heart of Hope.”
Earlier this year, the L.A. Sentinel (LAS) spoke with teen self-harm activist and founder of the Confidence, Harmony, Enlightment, Encouragement, Tranquility, Awareness and Hope (C.H.E.E.T.A.H) Movement Kenidra Woods, to discuss the film and her inspiration behind it.
“A Heart of Hope,” is a film about mental health; specifically depression because I believe that’s the underlying issue and it is more prevalent today, especially in teens,” said Woods.
“This is such a taboo subject, especially in the African American community. Mental health is ignored in our community, it’s blocked out. We are so accustomed to being strong that’s all we’ve known to do. It seems to be looked down upon and I want to change that, and I’m going to change that,” said Woods.
The young activist went on to express her longing to continue fighting her battle, telling her story and informing others.
“I recall being the same young girl calling a self-injurious and/or suicidal person crazy,” said Woods. “I never took the time out really learn or try to understand why they did what they did or why those particular thoughts occurred. Not only is my story and personal experiences a driving force, but also my misconception of mental health.”
Woods decided she was ready to shed light on the topic once she was able to deal with her inner demons.
“A few years back, I wasn’t ready. I was in a dark, distant place. I wasn’t ready to tell my story, I was afraid, ashamed, angry and hurt,” said Woods. “Once I let go off all of that hurt, anger, and shame and forgave, my life changed for the better. Slowly but surely, I’ve gained strength, knowledge, and wisdom ever since. I took this huge leap of faith. I do not want others to suffer; that’s a sad and lonely place to be in.”
Discussing such a taboo topic in the Black community was half the battle, Woods also struggled finding people to participate in the film.
“I didn’t just want anyone, I knew that this film would be more than ordinary, well to me at least. I wanted to find people who were on the same level and was as serious as I was,” said Woods.
After meeting with various teenagers, Woods decided to cast her friends Mary Bland, Larry Hearn, her younger
sister Jameelah Woods, and a few students from Riverview Gardens High School.
“I met Mary this year at my new school, Riverview Gardens High. She is so strong for what she has overcome and I commend her for her courage to share her story. It’s takes a very strong person to do that,” said Woods.
“Larry is a very dear friend that I’ve known for a few years. He has helped me through some hard times with his heart wrenching, soul grabbing poetry. He’s an inspiration to me and many more. Jameelah is my younger sister, she’s always down for whatever when it comes to helping me with something, especially with C.H.E.E.T.A.H Movement.
She trusted me on this film, and I delivered,” said Woods.
The film maker’s primary goal, was to remind individuals who are currently suffering from mental illnesses that there is hope while encouraging people across the world to discuss uncomfortable or “hot topics.” Her slogan, “keep hope alive.”
“I really hope that people start being conscious of what they do or say and really just be a shoulder and an anchor to lift one another up, and to end the stigma,” said Woods. “I strongly believe that no one has to fully understand mental illness, but they do have to respect it and be mindful that words do hurt especially when you’re in a place where you feel alone and misunderstood.”
Words of Wisdom
Woods advises young women who are suffering from mental illness to seek immediate help.
“I remember not wanting to be vulnerable but through vulnerability, I found strength within. Sometimes you have to be vulnerable to find your strength,” said Woods. “You are already equipped, those tools have yet to be unleashed. There are resources all around and there are people that truly care and want to help you even when it feels like no one cares.”
What’s next for Woods? More short films and continuing the C.H.E.E.T.A.H Movement.
“I am going to continue bringing awareness with this short film and hope that it continues to resonate with individuals out there,” said Woods. “Yes, I think I will create more short films focusing on verbal, sexual and physical abuse, speaking out, the good and bad side of peer pressure, effects of bullying and the fear that comes with it.”
The film will be available to public on December 22 on Kenidra Woods social media pages.
Follow Kenidra Woods on Facebook at Kenidra R. Woods and Instagram @therealkenidrawoods.