Santa Clarita tackles suicide awareness with film

With assistance from members of the community and the Santa Clarita Valley Suicide Prevention, Postvention and Wellness Committee, Myles McNamara narrated, wrote and directed“Be the Difference,” a film that seeks to help residents start a conversation about suicide and mental health.
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Suicide and mental health can sometimes be hard topics to discuss with loved ones and friends, which is why the Santa Clarita Valley Suicide Prevention, Postvention and Wellness Committee created “Be the Difference,” a film that seeks to help residents start a conversation.

With assistance from the community, city officials and local philanthropic organizations, committee members crafted a 30-minute movie that they believe will serve as a guide to families across the community and country.

Be the Difference

The idea was to make a video featuring information on community resources and stories from those who have been affected, said Myles McNamara, who narrated, wrote and directed the film. “The genesis was we had our committee going for awhile — and I’ve participated because I work with seniors, who used to be a leading demographic suffering from suicide — so we thought why not make a film that could be used by the young and the old.”

The goal of the movie is to shed light on the warning signs, risk factors and resources that are commonly associated with suicide prevention, McNamara said during the film’s opening, before local residents Ellie Schneir and MaKayla Cherish Gorski shared stories of times when their loved ones were suffering from suicidal thoughts.

“I get a little choked up every time I watch it,” said Larry Schallert, assistant director of COC’s Student Health & Wellness Center. “We hit the most important points like prevention, what one can do to help and what some of the roadblocks are, so it really touches on the important things that need to be said,t and it really does serve as an important tool.”

The stories are the hooks, “but the real impact is the mission to inform,” McNamara said, adding, “Dawnel brings it home at the end when she says, ‘People don’t know what they don’t know.’

“This is why we give them the risk factors, which some (people) might not know,” McNamara said. “But if you do know, then it’s: ‘What do you do after I know somebody is at risk?’ That’s an aspect I hadn’t really thought of, and now, a friend or loved one knows they can call the hotline.”

Future Endeavors

“I saw that video and I was so impressed with it,” said City Councilman Bob Kellar, who viewed the film alongside fellow councilmember Laurene Weste and city officials earlier this month. “I think we need to show it at a City Council meeting, (so) it is my intent to approach our city manager because I think we’d be doing a benefit to our community by having that video shown.”

Along with the prospective city awareness campaign, Schallert said, “We’ll also do a series of activities and events that draw attention to mental health awareness and suicide prevention” and the commmittee hopes to create a resource guide that would be easily accessible to the community.

There’s a Santa Clarita Valley version of the film, “but then we shot another version that has a different ending and lists the national resources, so hopefully this can reach far past Santa Clarita,” McNamara said. “We want to reach out to the school districts, senior center, veterans and to whoever possible — because again — it can be anybody who is dealing with suicide.”

The resource guide hasn’t been created, yet, “but we hope to eventually get that going because it can be helpful to everybody,” Schallert said. “With the help of the American Society for Suicide Prevention, we would also like to find ways to get the word out and target certain populations that would be willing to attend suicide awareness trainings.”

Suicide is a difficult issue, “but the reality is it does exist and it happens everyday,” Kellar added. “I dont think any of us have the answer to suicide but if there’s something we can do that will save a few lives, then I think we should go for it. And I think this is as good of an opportunity as any to put the information out there for families to see.”

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