Documentary highlights suicide

Documentary highlights suicide

The film, “The S-Word,” is a documentary produced in 2017 and directed by Lisa J. Klein. It tells the story of survivors of their own suicide attempts and the connections they make in the aftermath.


Speaking the word “suicide” brings about an often strong reaction in the mind of the hearer. Most people can immediately think of a family member, friend, colleague or respected national figure who died by their own hand.

Even though suicide affects people of every race, religion, gender, national origin, and education and income level, it remains an off-limits topic, often met by uncomfortable silence.

The film, “The S-Word,” is a documentary produced in 2017 and directed by Lisa J. Klein. It tells the story of survivors of their own suicide attempts and the connections they make in the aftermath.

The “S” word referenced in the title refers not so much to suicide, but to the harmful silence that often surrounds it. The movie, which is not yet available via streaming services, will be shown at the Performing Arts Center at Kent State University Tuscarawas on Oct. 23 at 6:30 p.m. A half-hour resource fair will begin at 6 p.m.

After the film a panel discussion will be held with Klein from 8:15-9 p.m. The screening is sponsored by numerous local support agencies and is free and open to the public.

“The timing has been right for this for a very long time,” Klein said from her home in California. “It is never an easy conversation, but it’s an important conversation to have, for survivors of the attempt and for the families of those who have died.”

Klein brought a firsthand knowledge of what suicide can do to a family to the germination of the film’s idea.

“When I was in college, my father, and then a few months later my brother, committed suicide,” she said. “In the case of my father, the cause of his death was hidden within the family. It wasn’t until years later that I understood what happened. My brother had struggled within himself, and I knew what happened at the time.”

Klein was just 18 when the two close family members took their own lives. Her family didn’t speak of it.

“I wish I could say I addressed it right away,” Klein said, “but it took several years. I wrote about it, did some other films, but I kept asking myself, ‘Have I really covered this? Have I really addressed it?’”

Klein began research for “The S-Word” five or six years ago. “It’s such a hard conversation to have, for the people left behind and for the people around them who want to help,” she said. “There’s so much shame and guilt connected with the suicide of a family member. But in making the film, we realized that suicide is one of the things that doesn’t discriminate at all and affects every part of our society. When I tell people about or talk about the film with someone, nine times out of 10 the person has a story about a friend or family member, and they want to share that story, but it can be very difficult. People want to talk about it, and it’s important to be able to talk about it and to break through the silence.”

Todd Little, executive director of Advocacy, Choices and Empowerment Inc., said the resource fair preceding the film will be approximately 20 tables of information and representatives from the various sponsors and contributors that helped make the event possible.

Other groups that have a stake in providing services and support to groups of persons that may be at a higher risk of suicide — members of the LGBTQ community, schools and school counselors, mental health and counseling agencies, rape crisis support, and student groups — also will be on hand.

Klein said she wants people to come away from the movie feeling less alone. “That they can reach out and that people will listen,” she said. “That’s what people can do: be a human being to another human being and listen to what they have to say. It really, really is all about connections.”

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