‘It’s time to talk’

Suicide prevention documentary screening brings community together for discussion

A screening of a new, locally produced documentary about suicide prevention, entitled "It's Time to Talk” was held Thursday night by Marquette County Health Department and the Marquette County Suicide Prevention Alliance at the Masonic Center in Marquette. The documentary, produced by Tony Beres of La Dolce Video, features the stories of families who have lost a loved one to suicide, a person who survived a suicide attempt, as well as information from suicide prevention professionals. Actor portrayals of people showing warning signs of suicide, such as this one, were featured in the documentary film. (Photo courtesy of La Dolce Video)

MARQUETTE — “Hey Tom, what’s going on?” 

“I just wanted to give you my glove.” 

“Really? That’s like your favorite thing … and don’t you have a game tomorrow?” 

“Yeah, but, I just wanted to give it to you, because I don’t need it anymore.” 

“Do you want to hang out? 

“No thanks, I’ve got other plans.”

Giving away prized possessions. Withdrawing from activities. Isolating from family and friends. Visiting or calling people to say goodbye. These are some of the signs indicating someone may be at risk for suicide. 

This dialogue, which illustrates a scenario between two adolescent boys, one of whom is displaying warning signs of suicide, was featured in a new, locally produced documentary about suicide prevention, entitled “It’s Time to Talk.”

The documentary, produced by Tony Beres of La Dolce Video, was screened Thursday night at the Masonic Center in Marquette, with the aim of engaging the community in a discussion about suicide and suicide prevention, as suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 15-34 in Michigan. 

The film goes far beyond the statistics surrounding suicide. It shares the stories of families who have lost a loved one to suicide, a person who survived a suicide attempt and information from suicide prevention professionals.

“Our goal is to really tell all sides of the story, so we could really get a full understanding of what people think; how this happens,” Beres said, noting he wants people to know “there is hope.”

At the screening, which was held by the Marquette County Health Department and the Marquette County Suicide Prevention Alliance, many who were involved in the film spoke about their experiences. A common thread among speakers was the importance of talking about, and addressing, the issue of suicide in communities, families and schools.

“This touches my heart so deeply,” said Carol Ann Swanson, who shared her family’s story in the documentary. “Because the way we save lives is to talk about it, to acknowledge that this is the truth. There are people who are suffering every single day, who reach a point of such intolerable pain that they see no other choice than to take their own lives.”

Speakers said openly talking about the issue of suicide can help people recognize the warning signs and be more comfortable approaching someone for help, or asking someone if they need help. 

“I had no idea that this could touch anybody in my family … It was such a shock to us,” said Rebecca Tervo, a loss survivor featured in the documentary who spoke at Thursday’s viewing. “It’s so important to talk about it, because maybe if we had known something about it, maybe there would have been a way to even see some signs.”

Knowing what to look for can save a life, speakers at the event said, as anyone could be struggling.

While suicide can affect anyone, major risk factors include mental health disorders such as depression, access to firearms or other lethal means, isolation, substance abuse, chronic health problems and lack of access to behavioral health care services.

Serious warning signs include talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain, talking about being a burden to others, increasing the use of alcohol or drugs, acting anxious or agitated, behaving recklessly, sleeping too little or too much, withdrawing or feeling isolated, showing rage, talking about seeking revenge or displaying extreme mood swings, according to the according to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center. 

If a person talks about wanting to die or to kill oneself, is looking for a way to kill oneself or talks about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live, the Suicide Prevention Resource Center recommends calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or a mental health professional immediately. Dial Help, which answers for the lifeline in the U.P., can be reached by phone at 906-482-4357 or 800-562-7622, and by text at 906-356-3337.

Reaching out or making a call is important because listening to a person who may be contemplating suicide and connecting them with resources can go a long way, speakers said. 

“Just listening and just being there, sometimes that can make the biggest difference in someone’s life,” said Kristine Putz of Dial Help, a Houghton-based call center that answers for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. “If you are at loss, calling Dial Help, we can help walk you through this to create safety for that person.”

Dial Help’s services are free, confidential and available to all people 24 hours a day, Putz said, emphasizing Dial Help is a nonjudgmental and safe place for people of all orientations, gender identities, races, ages, religions and disabilities.  

Sarah Derwin, health educator at the Marquette County Health Department and co-chair of the Marquette County Suicide Prevention Alliance, said she wants people to know hope and resources are out there.

“We know the statistics are sobering about suicide,” she said. “We also know that people will attempt and they will live, and there is hope and there are resources out there.”

Swanson said she felt hopeful to see so many people attend the event. 

“To see people show up to, to talk about it, to support those of us who survived that loss, gives them a great deal of hope to stay with us,” she said, thanking the audience for “caring about those of us who have survived a loss and for those people who make the courageous act and do the unthinkable and stay here when everything inside them is saying ‘go.'”

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248.