Almost four years after the award-winning short feature film “The Road Back” went into production and nearly three since it premiered, the message is still relevant as ever.

“The Road Back,” focusing on two teens dealing with anxiety and depression, aims to raise awareness and break down stigma around mental health issues. It was created by Acadia Hospital in conjunction with the nonprofit Project AWARE. Nearly 100 area youth worked on the project, which I believe gave the film its realistic appeal to young viewers.

Since its premiere, “The Road Back” has been a global success, reaching more than 200,000 views on YouTube from across the U.S., Canada, Australia and elsewhere. The film premiered in 2012 at the Gracie Theatre, and it was broadcast on WABI in 2012 and 2013. Educators, teens and adults use the film to start conversations regarding mental health. “The Road Back” is a shimmering example of how youth outreach and advocacy are invaluable.

I am now in college and haven’t done any related work with “The Road Back” since 2013, but the film is still reaching teens and adults on YouTube, and schools show the film in health classes and school assemblies and for other purposes. I personally have been contacted by at least a half-dozen individuals who expressed to me that the film was incredibly relatable and resonated with them. On Acadia Hospital’s YouTube channel,, you will see a number of heartfelt messages from grateful teens who state the film changed, or possibly even saved, their lives.

As one of the film’s lead actors, I can look back and say “The Road Back” was a turning point and helped me transition into the person I am today. The film was produced and premiered during my junior year of high school, and outreach and promotion continued into my senior year. The film and promotional work helped me become more comfortable with public speaking, organization and networking.

But more important than the film’s impact on me, the greater impact is the thousands of teens and adults the film has reached.

Statistics show that one in four teens will suffer from anxiety or depression at some point in their lives. And studies have shown that early treatment of anxiety and depression has better long-term outcomes. Mental health is an important topic not just for teens, but for parents, educators and legislators. Films such as “The Road Back” are the keys to reaching young people and positive interactions surrounding mental health.

The film’s success is largely due to the passion behind every individual working on it. Every crew member and actor had some connection to mental health issues, and that connection made for a common goal to make the film as impactful as possible.

We need more information about and discussion of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, not less. Education has a demonstrated impact in decreasing stigma and misunderstanding around these topics. That is key because feelings of isolation and fear of being ostracized are major barriers to accessing treatment. Thanks to people including actress Glenn Close, who, with her sister (who has bipolar disorder) started a nonprofit group called Bring Change 2 Mind, we are heading in the right direction. We also are fortunate to have advocacy organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness working hard to make change.

In the meantime, we all can make a difference for friends and loved ones who may be struggling with a mental illness. Be supportive. Listen. Be patient and kind. Yes, sometimes it’s the little things that can make the biggest difference in a person’s life.

“The Road Back” is a great example of how to reach youth audiences while engaging them in meaningful activities and conversations about mental health.

Josh Devou, a lead actor in “The Road Back,” is now a student at Thomas College. He was an intern with Acadia Hospital’s communications department this summer. Visit for information on the film.