Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States (CDC). There is one death by suicide in the US every 12 minutes (CDC). And the suicide rates continue to go up. Despite all the good efforts of so many put into suicide prevention, intervention, and crisis care, something about our national approach to suicide is not working quite the way it should.

I’m not a scientist, or a researcher, but I suspect there has been one major missing variable that might possibly make a difference: listening to the perspective of persons with lived experience of suicidality and suicide attempts. A great deal of the energy in suicide prevention has gone into studying those who have died, while not listening to those who have survived attempts about what helped and what hurt in a suicidal crisis. This is slowly beginning to change, but we still have a long way to go for lived experience to be given its due in suicide prevention.

The entire rationale for the film’s title, The S Word, comes down to the fact that we don’t like to talk about suicide much. We still treat suicide as something to tiptoe around, to discuss in hushed whispers, in support groups and in private conversations. I get it: suicide is, by definition, scary. It can be scary for those of us who have struggled with it, our loved ones, and even for behavioral health care providers. But I think a big part of defeating the stigma surrounding suicide is to listen to those who have lived with it. To hear our voices, our suggestions, our ideas for change. For this reason, when The S Word director Lisa Klein approached me to participate in the film, I jumped at the chance. What I love about this film is that it features the perspectives of lived experience front and center, positioning us as experts on equal footing with those possessing academic or clinical expertise. It makes for a film that is warm, moving, story-driven, even humorous at times. With great sensitivity and heart, this film will change the way you understand, think, and talk about suicide.

The film centers around the Live Through This Project and its creator, Dese’Rae L. Stage, including stories about former PEERS employee Kelechi Ubozoh; Craig Miller, author of the memoir This is How it Feels; and me. It also includes moving perspectives from many others who have been touched by suicide. I am beyond honored to have been a part of this project.

On May 18th, 2018, PEERS will be hosting a FREE screening of the groundbreaking documentary film The S Word. Join us at The New Parkway Theater in Oakland, CA from 2:30 to 5:00pm.

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Filmmaker Lisa J. Klein will be in attendance, as will former PEERS employee Kelechi Ubozoh. There will be a question and answer session after the film.

To learn more about The S Word, check out The S Word Stories on Tumblr.