Regis University hosted the Denver premiere of "The S Word," a documentary addressing the stigma of suicide through interviews with suicide attempt survivors, on its Northwestern Denver Campus on Sept. 25. The screening was followed by a Q&A with a panel moderated by Sally Spencer-Thomas, a psychologist, and suicide prevention expert. The panel consisted of the film's director Lisa Klein, Nahed Barakat, Psy.D., Lena Heilmann Ph.D., and Stacey Freedenthal Ph.D. Barakat is a licensed Clinical Psychologist at Regis, Heilmann is a former professor and Suicide Prevention Advocate, and Freedenthal is psychotherapist in Denver and a graduate professor at the University of Denver.
“It’s not the word suicide that is the problem, it is the deafening silence around it,” Spencer-Thomas opened the event, quoting April Foreman, a Suicide Prevention Coordinator for veterans in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
"The S Word" seeks to tell the stories of suicide attempt survivors inspired by the work of Dese’rae Stage, the founder of LiveThroughThis.org, a website where Stage interviews attempt survivors in hopes to show that suicide affects everyone of all races, genders, and backgrounds. Stage, a survivor of a suicide attempt herself, wanted to explore the “other side of suicide” in part to help find answers to some questions she had from her past.
“I started this film from a place of loss and was surprised to find such a thriving community,” remarks Klein on her experience filming "The S Word."
The audience is invited into the lives and homes of suicide attempt survivors and their family members, we’re witness to weddings, speeches, and the scattering of ashes. The interviewees share their darkest moments with the audience and it's nearly impossible not to grow attached to them. These are the type of people you’d pass on the street without a second glance. They’re funny, they’re raw, they’re real, they’re human, and by the end of the film, it’s hard to imagine a world without them in it.
While many of the survivors are in a much better place than they were at the time of their attempt, that doesn’t mean that suicidal thoughts don’t still plague them at times. It’s an ongoing journey with bumps along the way. When one of the interviewees, Kelechi Ubozoh, was asked if suicide was still an option for her she said she didn’t want it to be but at times those thoughts do return to her.
The ultimate takeaway is that suicide doesn’t discriminate. "The S Word" intermittently reminds its audience through its statistics: every 112 people are lost to suicide every day, 40% of trans people commit suicide every year, 20 veterans commit suicide a day, and suicide is one of the highest leading causes of death for Americans aged 15-24.
Colorado consistently ranks in the top ten states with the highest suicide rates, so what as a community can be done about this? Now more than ever it’s important to get involved be it through joining groups like the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Colorado or just being willing to listen and be there for someone battling with suicidal thoughts. Don’t let this call to action be ignored, as Spencer-Thomas asked those in attendance, “Where’s your voice in this effort? Where’s your stand in this battle?”
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741. For additional resources, you can visit TheSWordMovie.com or SuicidePreventionColorado.org.