Every day, I seem to wake up to a new headline about a famous person who has committed suicide. The deaths of the rich and famous are tragic — but no more tragic than those of the thousands of teenagers and young adults who take their lives every year with very little notice beyond the grieving loved ones they left behind.
I have a much-loved grandson who works as an actor, and recently, he starred in a movie that shone a light on some of the statistics the media isn’t reporting. Like the fact that suicide is the third leading cause of death for kids between 12 and 21. Let that sink in: 12 year olds die from suicide more often than from ALL other causes except gun violence, including cancer, heart defects, birth defects, acute illnesses like pneumonia and the flu, and car accidents.
I had to think for quite a while before I said yes to this role for my grandson. For me, it was painful to even listen to him say his lines from the film — I can’t imagine what it would be like to have a teenager actually kill themselves. What I learned as we worked with the amazing cast and crew of the movie, however, is that suicide is a hidden plague. Many of the people seem “fine” right up until the moment they take their own lives.
In the film, he plays Jacob Carter, the youngest member of the cast. It’s a powerful movie, and deals with sensitive topics other than suicide including gender identity, drug abuse, and race. In the personal narratives at the end of the movie, where real people discuss their own battles with suicidal thoughts and depression as well as the aftermath for the families left behind, one of the women says, “We don’t really talk about depression in my community.”
In minority communities, only half the people who commit suicide each year have ever been diagnosed with depression or another mental health issue. Most, like the celebrities who made the news this week, seem to be functioning until they can no longer keep up the facade.
Please watch my grandson’s film — the complete film is below, and it’s not long — and think about the people you interact with every day. If any of this looks familiar, consider reaching out to them, or paying closer attention.
I’m proud of the work my grandson did, happy the film gave us the opportunity to talk openly about a number of issues we’d only skirted before, and educated us about the realities of suicide among teens and young adults. But I still can’t watch the ending of the movie again. Hearing my grandson’s voice at the end had me in tears at the premiere, and I never want to experience that again. I hope what I experienced in the film reaches people in a way that saves them from experiencing it in real life.