An important and under explored topic. It often comes up in our mood disorders support group. Many of us have lots to say about the subject, refreshingly straight forward discussions, many of us having survived attempts or at least deep consideration of killing ourselves during our worst struggles with the worst lows of mood disorders. It goes with the territory.
But even though contemplating ending ones life is a huge, life changing experience to survive (or to be still revisiting at times), it's one that family, friends and even therapists tend to avoid. "Let's get on with the positive stuff - we won't dwell on the dark side, unhealthy or negative stuff. It might set one off again"
Well it's there. The elephant in the closet. The element in your experience that needs to be acknowledged and dealt with. Not addressing it, in my experience, allows suicide to grow as a secret, as a coveted, even romantic option. I've lost too many people in my life to that seductive last resort.
Last June, as part of a planned three event approach to suicide through Movie Monday's film/discussion model, I presented Ordinary People
On Oct 14 we'll be screening Taste of Cherry
, an Iranian film about a man in his middle age bent on suicide and looking for someone to help him by filling in his grave after he's in it. It's a slow, spare film, not a typical Hollywood production, but for me, the impact was great and the message was very positive, hopeful, and true to my experience.
We'll follow in the next few months with rollercoaster
. It's a film about "youth at risk" at large in the PNE midway in Vancouver. We screened the film as part of our third Reel Madness Festival and had director Scott Smith "with us" by telephone conference. Scott speaks so well to his characters and their motivations that I'm determined to have him with us "in the flesh" to further explore this topic through his film. The story which was inspired by a news story of teens who went on a road trip headed for Vancouver with a suicide pact. Scott's screen play takes place over a 20 hr period when five kids on the lamb from a group home break into the deserted midway. See www.rollercoasterthemovie.com
"ORDINARY PEOPLE" TO BENEFIT SUICIDE SURVIVORS
Movie Monday and Pacific Centre Family Services presented a special Saturday showing of the 1980 classic film, Ordinary People on SATURDAY June 22nd at 7pm. The event was in memory of David Martin and others who have taken their own lives.
Martin, who was 39 and a Langford contractor died in April. His story has been widely publicized (which in itself is unusual) because his suicide was so unexpected and because he left a note alleging sexual abuse in his youth as a reason for his despair. It was also noticed that there was also a sad lack of counseling resources for his widow and others who survive.
David Martin's tragic death has both raised our collective awareness of suicide and also raised unanswered questions. This event offers individuals a chance to come together as one audience to share a thought provoking film, and a post-film discussion of how we can support survivors of suicide.
Robert Redford directed this film that deservedly cleaned up at the Oscars in 1980. It stars Judd Hirsh, Timothy Hutton, Mary Tyler Moore and Donald Sutherland. It deals sensitively with a family's struggle to cope with the death of a son. Each family member tries to cope in his or her own way, largely in isolation from the others. Eventually, sessions with a psychiatrist (Hirsh) enable the father (Sutherland) and surviving son (Hutton) to reestablish a relationship.
Movie Monday's Bruce Saunders says, "Over the years of showing films on difficult subjects and then having facilitated discussions including the audience, just after they have been through that collective experience, I have found a great deal of learning and healing can happen. I'm pleased to collaborate on this event in a timely way.
I chose this film because the tragic history that Conrad struggles with in this film, I imagine, would weigh in like the burden David Martin was carrying. This film example illustrates a precarious course and more promising outcome for someone troubled by an unresolved trauma."
Counselor Sharon Kobrinksy of Pacific Centre Family Services (who was Sharon Martin's counselor and has offered her services to facilitate a support group for people suffering loss through suicide) and Saunders (who has twice ventured over that edge) agree that suicide is something about which there needs to be more open, constructive discourse. They will be facilitating the after-screening discussion.
Sharon Kobrinski observes, "Too many people try to live through the suicide of a loved one without benefit of outside help because they can't afford it." Pacific Centre Family Services is responding by establishing a "Counseling Trust Fund for Survivors of Suicide" to reduce the financial barriers to receiving counseling.
The event is admission by donation, with all proceeds benefiting the Trust Fund. The show starts at 7:00pm at the Eric Martin Theatre, in the 1900 block of Fort Street.