Alison Kueck, a Scarborough High Schooler, shares her thoughts on substance misuse in front of the Westbrook High School for a short documentary sponsored by the Westbrook Partners for Prevention. The documentary features slides with facts as well as a number of interviews with local kids and teachers. Contributed / Westbrook Partners for Prevention

Westbrook Partners for Prevention hopes that a new, documentary-style film by local youth will build compassion and understanding for those with substance use disorders.

The 17-minute film sponsored by the local nonprofit, which focuses on youth drug misuse, features slides with facts on substance misuse among youth in Maine. The slides are paired with short interviews with local teachers and students.

Co-creator and student filmmaker Kate Morin, an 18-year-old Gorham High graduate starting her higher education career at Hawai’i Pacific University, said the film aims to bring people together in understanding substance misuse, dodging the scary tropes similar drug-centered films play on.

“A big priority of mine was to make sure it wasn’t fear-mongering and didn’t dehumanize people who did use substances or had substance misuse disorder,” said Morin, who is studying multimedia production this year. “I have some background with that. I had an internship with a documentary focusing on these issues called ‘Voices Through Hope’ … I wanted to handle it in a mature way, and clearly, the scare tactics were used for decades, so nothing changed, so they don’t really work.”

The film outlines some data from the 2019 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey and Parent Surveys, which shows that 1 in 3 Westbrook students have tried an illegal substance, including the top three in the city: nicotine through vaping, alcohol and marijuana.

Nationwide, 1 in 5 children have tried at least one of these substances, according to the survey.

The film also outlines some roots of substance misuse disorders among youth, tying them to adverse childhood experiences. A study done by Elsevier in 2009 found childhood abuse or exposure to violent crime was related to the number of lifetime mood and anxiety disorders and to substance use risk.

”If you’re growing up in an abusive household, you don’t want to focus on that, so it becomes a coping mechanism,Scarborough High School senior Alison Kueck said in the film.

Westbrook Partners for Prevention is planning virtual screenings over Zoom from 5-6 p.m. Sept. 14 and 5:30-6:30 p.m. Sept. 22. For more information, visit westbrookpartnersforprevention.org.

People can also now watch the film on their own time at the Partners for Prevention Vimeo page.

“My hope as a director for Partners for Prevention for folks seeing the film is that they take away that feeling of compassion and that we can further the conversation on destigmatizing some of these topics,” WPP Director Janet Dosseva said.

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