NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Data from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation shows fatal overdoses among adolescents are skyrocketing.

For one Vanderbilt researcher, those statistics hit close to home; her own son died from an overdose, and now she’s created a movie to tell his story and, hopefully, save lives.

“Anders was a very creative and intelligent child,” said Kristen Gilliland, who noticed a change when her smart little boy was in middle school.

“The depression and anxiety started in middle school, and then he just started to find ways to escape, and that’s when he started to use substances,” she said.

Kristen said that her son, Anders, struggled with schizophrenia from cannabis misuse, as well as cocaine and heroin. A neurochemist herself and expert on the science of drugs, Kristen sought out every possible treatment to save her son, but could not.

“At the age of 22, he accidentally overdosed and passed,” Kristen said. “I miss him everyday, but he’s here. He’s here every day, too.”

Losing her son in 2019 lead to a film about her son called “Speaking Through Me”.

“I knew he wanted to get clean. He told me several times,” Kristen recalled.

The film premieres this week at the Franklin Theatre with this message: “Substance misuse at a young age can damage your brain for a lifetime.”

“Your pre-frontal cortex is your place of decision-making, planning, impulse control, all that higher function, executive functions…their brain is so malleable. It’s so malleable during this time,” Kristen said.

According to Kristen, teaching our children early tools like meditation, deep breathing, and self-compassion can rewire their adult brain for the better.

“So trying to teach kids at an early age that how they speak to themselves – their self narrative – has a huge impact on the neurocircuitry in their brain,” Kristen said.

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She, along with the Warren Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery at Vanderbilt, produced the film. Her goal is for every school to share this film with students.

Click here for ticket details about the Aug. 15 premiere.