Filmmaker Uses Personal Tragedies to Educate Public About Importance of Talking About Suicide

‘The S Word’ to be screened at U-M on World Suicide Prevention Day

Lisa Klein knows what dealing with a suicide is like all too well. While she was an undergrad studying film at the University of Michigan in the late 70’s, both her father and brother died by suicide.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth ages 15-24, and overall is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.s-word

Due to the stigma that has surrounded mental health for decades, many people are hesitant to discuss suicide candidly and openly. That is precisely why Lisa decided to create The S Word, with the purpose of opening the conversation about suicide and to amplify the voices of those living through suicide attempts and loss.

In a phone interview, Lisa noted that, “The reason we made the film is to show people they are not alone. We need to stay connected and know there are people we can talk to – and people who will listen.”

On Sunday, September 10th, which is World Suicide Prevention Day, Lisa is heading back to Ann Arbor and bringing her film to the University of Michigan for a special screening and panel discussion at the Ross School of Business. The panel will include two U-M psychiatrists, the embedded business school counselor, and representatives from mental wellness groups on campus and in the community.

Lisa noted how it can be challenging or overwhelming to think about the right ways to help someone who might be suicidal. “Everyone is different, but asking them if they are thinking about suicide is okay – and will often open up a bigger conversation. Nothing heals in the dark, ” she said.

Someone who is potentially suicidal will talk about death and having no reason to live. The individual may see himself or herself as a huge burden, making comments such as, ‘When I am gone, things are going to be better for everyone else.’

Related: Suicide Warning Signs and Risk Factors Everyone Should Know

In a previous interview with Meg Jennings, LMSW, social-work supervisor for Michigan Medicine’s Regional Alliance for Healthy Schools, she said, “Feelings of hopelessness can come out in conversations, so consider how individuals are talking about their life. If they are overwhelmed thinking about continuing to live, it is time to get help.”

During the panel discussion after the screening, Lisa hopes the topic of social media will be addressed. “Social media is a double-edged sword, while it is great for connecting friends, it is also often used as a device to shame or bully. It’s here to stay, so we need to figure out how to use it safely and responsibly.  We are in such unchartered territory right now due to the political climate. We need all hands on deck.”

If you are interested in attending this screening, please RSVP here.