He was just taking pictures and ended up with an Oscar-winning film on mental illness.

When 70-year-old filmmaker Frank Stiefel first met artist Mindy Alpert, he didn't know they'd end up making a pioneering movie about mental illness — let alone that he'd win an Oscar for it.

He really just wanted to know more about how she worked. "My wife told me there was this woman at her art studio who was making incredible things but never talked to anyone," he says. That woman was Mindy Alpert.

He introduced himself to Alpert and eventually asked if he could document her latest project, a giant papier-mâché head.


As Alpert slowly began to open up, Stiefel realized she was living with intense anxiety and depression — which she channels into her artwork. The giant head she was sculpting was that of her therapist.

The film's eye-catching title, "Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405," comes from a line in the movie, when Alpert explains how much she loves being stuck in Los Angeles traffic because watching the faces of others in their cars soothes her anxiety. It's one of the most powerful moments in a deeply affecting film.

And when the documentary earned an Oscar, Stiefel's emotional acceptance speech charmed many people on social media because of the sweet way he credited his wife B.J. Dockweiler for his success (the tuxedo he wore was the same suit he wore to their wedding 40 years ago) — and for his heartfelt comments about Alpert.

"I always knew, but I always knew the only reason people would care about it is because we all care about you," Stiefel said of Alpert.

The two remain in touch almost daily.

Stiefel says he approached the movie like a reporter, keeping in mind that when addressing mental illness, listening really matters.

While making his film, Stiefel says he was self-conscious about not wanting to exploit Alpert. Instead, he saw his role more as simply chronicling her process and allowing her to be vulnerable about her experience.

Stiefel says Alpert's story has inspired others to open up about their own experiences. Though he wasn't intentionally trying to make a message movie, Stiefel says he's definitely noticed its impact.

"After screenings, people will often come up and want to talk about their own experiences with mental illness," he says. "I don't think it would have worked if I'd tried to go out and make that kind of movie."

Instead, he says "just letting Mindy tell her story" created an atmosphere of authenticity that doesn't shy away from an artist's emotional challenges (or how much joy and hope she experiences every day).

Sitting back and listening to people with powerful stories to tell was a big part of Stiefel's first film too — which he didn't make until age 63.

Stiefel's story is highly unusual in Hollywood. The 70-year-old spent decades working on the "business side" for a TV commercial company and, in his words, was "very happy" with his career, saying he was never interested in becoming a director.

Things changed when he watched a lecture his mother gave in New York about being born deaf and surviving the Holocaust. Given his mother's advancing age, Stiefel decided to film the lecture and interview her on camera as a time capsule for his two daughters.

That project eventually became the documentary "Ingelore." Stiefel was walking into a movie theater with his wife and one of his daughters when he got an email telling him the film had won a major documentary award. "I had to keep my mouth shut until the movie was over," he says, laughing. "But I decided to quit my job right then," and he took "Ingelore" to a number of film screenings where it won acclaim and eventually appeared on HBO.

Now that he's won an Oscar, Stiefel admits that opportunities are coming in for larger and more conventional projects. However, he says he'll continue his process. "My next project will probably be something like the first two, where I just accidentally stumble into it while talking to someone I find interesting."

Family

On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

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Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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Culture