Speaking Through Me

Speaking Through Me was created to empower teens and young adults with knowledge and awareness about the most precious and amazing supercomputer they will ever own: their developing brain. With the increasing cases of depression, anxiety, addiction, overdose, self-harm, and suicide amongst our youth in the United States - a paradigm shift is needed. The film follows a grieving mother/scientist, along with three brave young adults who have battled either severe depression and anxiety, anorexia and bulimia, or drug addiction; their stories will touch your heart, uplift your soul, and demonstrate how YOU ultimately possess the power to change your story to the positive.

A film by the Warren Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery at Vanderbilt

  • Kristen Marie Gilliland
  • Kristen Marie Gilliland
  • Kristen Marie Gilliland
  • Warren Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery
  • Kristen Marie Gilliland
    Key Cast
  • Gregory N
    Key Cast
  • Livia P
    Key Cast
  • Layne G
    Key Cast
  • Tim Fong
    Key Cast
    "Dr. Fong"
  • Anders C Meisenheimer
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short
  • Runtime:
    37 minutes 28 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    June 12, 2023
  • Production Budget:
    15,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Tarzana International Film Festival
    United States
    September 30, 2023
    Finalist/Official Selection
  • Paris International Shorts Festival
  • Detroit Independent Film Festival
    United States
  • Kansas City Independent Film Festival
    Kansas City
    United States
Distribution Information
  • NA
Director Biography - Kristen Marie Gilliland

Kristen earned her Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She later served as an Associate Professor of Chemistry at Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo. During her professorship at Cal Poly, she taught Organic Chemistry, Neurochemistry, and the Chemistry of Drugs and Poisons. After Kristen’s son was diagnosed with cannabis-induced schizophrenia at the age of 17, Kristen joined the Warren Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery at Vanderbilt University (2018) to research new treatments for schizophrenia. Kristen delivered a TEDx presentation titled Rewiring Revolution: Neuroplasticity’s Impact on Wellbeing in 2018, as well. Tragically, Kristen lost her son to an accidental overdose in 2019 after his mental health severely declined and he became addicted to opioids and stimulants. Kristen then changed the trajectory of her life to utilize her scientific teaching, presentation, and research skills to educate adolescent-aged children and their parents on mental health challenges and how it can lead to self-harm, substance use, and/or substance use disorder. As the Director of Outreach and Advocacy Programs for the Warren Center, Kristen presents to middle schools, high schools, law enforcement agencies, community centers, and recovery programs across Middle Tennessee. In addition, she has developed an educational documentary aimed for middle school and high school-aged children titled Speaking Through Me which was released in August of 2023. The documentary and Kristen’s presentations focus on the developing teenage brain and neuroplasticity, the structural and functional changes that occur in the brain when under repeated stress and anxiety, the impacts of high potency cannabis on the adolescent brain, the neurobiology of addiction, and the dangers and prevalence of fentanyl. Lastly, the documentary and presentations also include methods to combat everyday stressors or adversity using mindfulness and the importance of self-compassion and emotion regulation skills on the developing adolescent brain.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

I was handed the ultimate opportunity to turn unimaginable grief into purpose to help and empower our youth. I experienced the worst pain a parent could ever imagine - the loss of a child. Like so many of our youth these days, my son, Anders, battled depression and anxiety. He tried to repeatedly escape his emotions - using alcohol, drugs, and self-harm. Living in a state where cannabis was legalized, he began to use high-potency cannabis frequently. Unfortunately, because of his genetics and repetitive use high potency cannabis at an early age, he developed cannabis-induced schizophrenia in his late teens. Because cannabis is legal is so many states now, adolescents and most parents assume it is safe. I would like to state that I am not anti-cannabis. I believe many adults have found relief from various ailments through cannabis. However, smoking high- potency cannabis during adolescence has now been shown to increase the risk of developing cannabis-induced psychosis. The schizophrenia my son developed later led to an opioid and stimulant addiction. At the age of 22, my baby boy succumbed to his addiction. Speaking Through Me is an educational documentary to teach adolescents the amazing power of their brain during this critical time in development. It is used to empower adolescents to know they ARE enough right here and right now. My hope is to teach adolescents that they have the ultimate superpower to become who and how they want to be as an adult using neuroplasticity. The film is my baby boy Speaking Through Me.