AWI Sanctuary Space presents: Horror Movies: Exploring Mental Health, Monsters and Stigma

An ongoing Continued Connections program that creates virtual spaces for people to connect at the intersection of art and mental health.

Where has the horror genre intersected with mental health stigma vs mental health advocacy? Where has horror explored psychology, social subtext, gender, and ‘monsterizing’ people and parts of ourselves when we don’t fit into a ‘category’?

Through open discussion, movie clip screenings, and a creative activity offering, we’ll explore how these themes have played out in the horror genre and how we can move away from ‘monsterizing’ parts of ourselves and members of society. In this space, we’ll invite you to visualize ‘your monster’ in a new light and seek ways to build and co-create a more empathetic world.

We’ll be joined by horror genre enthusiasts and mental health advocates Aalya Ahmad and Cat Tanchanco.

Exploration topics: movie clip analysis, mental health issues, psychology, mental illness, culture, stigma, horror movies, and literature

This event was free to attend.

PLAY: interactive event recording + presentation:

Movie clips + literature screened at event:

Featured National Resources:

Crisis Text Line
988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline
Planned Parenthood
National Domestic Violence Hotline
National Sexual Assault Hotline
Trans Lifeline
The Trevor Project
Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective (BEAM)
Black Mental Health Alliance
Learn how to support someone else’s mental health: Be There Certificate

About the panelists:

Aalya Ahmad (she/her) is an organizer, educator and scholar with a Ph.D. in the horror genre (2010). She has always been fascinated by the intersections and overlaps between gender and social politics in horror, as well as horror’s literary and cinematic effects. She has published articles on zombies, teaching feminist horror, Indigenization and Canadian horror films. In spite of all this research, Aalya still watches her horror movie with a pillow handy in case of jump scares! Aalya is also a long-term activist for social justice and human rights, with a particular concern for disability and mental health awareness, stemming from her own lived experiences and human rights advocacy.

Cat Tanchanco (sher/her) also known as AUDFACED, is a special effects makeup artist, filmmaker, and movie analyst based in Los Angeles. She is known for her ‘cinematic makeup tutorials on YouTube for embodying iconic horror characters like Samara from “The Ring” or The Witch from “Left 4 Dead.” Her film Doctor or Monster, which explores healthy relationship dynamics and codependency layered over horror imagery won Best Music Video at the Les Femmes Underground International Film Festival. She enjoys analyzing movies as they intersect with identity, society, and mental health issues. You can find her shamelessly buying all things pumpkin-spice and catching the latest horror film release.

Read more from Special Guest Aalya Ahmad:

You can read about or listen to some of Aalya’s work in the horror field here:

Read more about the story, The Yellow Wallpaper:


Date:October 20, 2022
Time:2:00 pm - 3:30 pm

Workshop Evaluation

100% of participants felt the event created awareness of mental health issues
80% of participants gained new tools to support their own wellness
87% of participants made a meaningful connection with other people
I’ll now be able to view horror films through that lens of how emotional/psychological abuse is used to create horrific situations. I’ll also be more mindful of the language I use to talk about character traits & disorders that often show up in films (horror & otherwise). "
-Sanctuary Space attendee


Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission The MHSOAC provides vision and leadership, in collaboration with clients, their family members, and underserved communities, to ensure Californians understand mental health is essential to overall health. MHSOAC holds public mental health systems accountable, provides oversight for eliminating disparities; promotes wellness, recovery and resiliency; and ensures positive outcomes for individuals living with serious mental illness and their families.