Last week I was fortunate to have the opportunity to host a local screening of the documentary film, “Suicide: The Ripple Effect.” You can read more about it and search for more screenings here. I’ve also posted the trailer below. It’s a documentary film about the life of Kevin Hines, who at the age of 19 attempted suicide by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge. He became one of the 1% who survive and is now a public speaker and advocate for suicide prevention.
Our screening was an amazing success. Well over 100 people attended (it would have been a success even with one attendee). There were people there who struggle with depression and suicidal ideation; some have attempted to take their own lives. There were also people there who haven’t experienced the struggle but just want to educate themselves in order to help others.
Before the film began I briefly introduced myself and shared that I struggle with depression and battle thoughts of suicide. After the film people told me some of their stories of loss and survival. In the days since, I’ve thought a lot about Kevin Hines’s story, the stories of others, and my personal story. God is telling me that even though my story won’t make headlines, I still have a story worth sharing. Why? Because the best way to prevent suicide is to have healthy conversations about suicide. I’m willing to use my story to continue the conversation. While my story is my own, people can relate to it. Numerous people have told me about their struggles, but only after I first share my story. People don’t always feel comfortable talking about their own struggles because they fear judgement, rejection, or just ignorance. Or maybe they just haven’t found the right opportunity. But when someone who they can relate to shares, they feel comfortable opening up. And that creates healthy conversations!
We all have stories worthy of being shared. I realize that not everyone is ready to tell their story. I also realize that not every situation is the time and place. But my hope is that we can interject our realities into conversations to foster safe environments to talk about mental health and suicide prevention. We need to be as comfortable saying, “I struggle with depression,” as saying, “I have a cold.” Not only will you help others who can relate to you, but it will also help you in your journey. The people who support me the most when I am down are the people who can relate to my struggles. It’s an amazing, comforting feeling to hear someone say, “I understand, I’ve been there too” after I open up to them.
Now, for those of you who think you don’t have a story because you haven’t struggled with your mental health, let me tell you that you do have a very important role. Your role is to learn how to spot warning signs and symptoms in others, how to have appropriate conversations with someone who struggles, and to learn about resources for professional treatment. Be the person who won’t judge, reject, or respond in ignorance. That’s an amazing story!
It can be difficult to start conversations, but there are many easy ways to do so. You may simply say, “I’ve heard about suicide in the news lately,” “I’ve been reading about suicide prevention,” “my friend struggles with depression and has talked to me about it,” or just mention the trailer for “Suicide: The Ripple Effect.”
Let’s tell our stories. Let’s start conversations about mental health and suicide. We will save lives!