Friday 20 April 2018

Powerful short film about suicide aims to help young people talk about mental health

A still from Unseen
A still from Unseen
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

A charity is releasing a powerful short film about suicide which aims to help young people to open up about their own mental health.

Unseen tells the story of Irish teenager Owen (Bob Carley) who is feeling suicidal but is brought back from the brink by his grandfather Alexander (Desmond Eastwood), who reaches out to him in his darkest hour.

Filmed in Ireland in March last year, Unseen won the Midwest Short Film category at the Richard Harris International Film Festival and was also screened at the Galway Film Fleadh.

Christ in Youth (CIY), a US Christian charity with Irish bases in Belfast, Dublin and Limerick, made the film after it conducted extensive research into the issues affecting young people in Ireland, which revealed that mental health was one the most pressing.

“As a youth worker for 20 years I had known about mental health and high suicide rates but I didn’t know the depths of it,” reveals CIY European Director Jasper Rutherford.

“We thought, okay this is something we need to talk about more, and get conversations going with young people more.  It’s important to get them talking about their own stories. 

“We did a lot of research and met with lots of people from people who had tried to commit suicide, parents who had lost children, families, and we listened to their stories.  Lots of stuff in the film is based on the stories people have shared with us.

“This film is a way to help young people to talk about their own stories, because they can start by speaking about Owen and Alexanders’ story and then open up themselves.

“If we tried to ask young people about mental health directly, it would be very difficult.  This film allows honest conversations to happen.”

Although the film was made by CIY, the organisation hopes it will become a resource for anyone working with young people, from teachers to youth workers to churches and parents.

“My hope is to launch it in Ireland as a resource, a gift to give away for everybody to use,” says Jasper.

“It’s a tool to help young people and if we can de-stigmatise mental health and say it’s okay to talk abut these things it will have an impact.

“All the research says that having one significant other to speak to reduces the suicide risk drastically.  Youth workers, teachers, all those people can be significant others who young people can feel comfortable speaking to.”

Unseen will premiere at the Helix in Dublin at 7.30pm on March 5, with further screenings on March 7 in Limerick, and March 8 in Belfast.  Also, this week it will be screened at six schools with the hope that it will then be rolled out as a free resource to schools nationwide.

The film will be available on https://unseenfilm.org/ with free resource information for teachers, youth groups, youth clubs, and churches.  There will also be a list of agencies, secular and voluntary, for young people to access the support they need.

In the meantime, if you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article please contact Samaritas on 116 123 (UK and Ireland) or email jo@samaritans.org

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