How to choose an Educational Video:
Teaching young people how to help a friend is an important part of a comprehensive school based suicide prevention strategy. Educational videos that teach basic suicide prevention skills are often a helpful part of the instruction. Videos are most effectively used with an accompanying curriculum and as part of a larger presentation on mental health, mental illness and helping friends in distress.
- Videos that teach, model and emphasize developmentally appropriate help-giving and help-seeking behaviors and that provide information on finding help. The focus should be on "HOW TO RESPOND" or "HOW TO GET HELP". In-house resources and local crisis numbers should be highlighted along with instruction.
- Videos that emphasize prevention and teach students that suicide is preventable. We want to reinforce the idea that there are preventative actions students can take to help protect themselves and their friends.
- Videos in which the heroes, or main characters, are the helpers.
- Videos that highlight effective treatments for underlying mental health problems. We want students to know that effective treatments for illnesses like depression and addiction are available AND that getting treatment is an important way to prevent suicide.
- Video that are short enough to allow time for discussion as part of the day's lesson.
- Avoid videos that depict someone engaging in suicidal behavior or that describe methods of suicide. This can actually increase risk for suicidal behavior among vulnerable youth.
- Avoid videos that primarily depict previously depressed or suicidal youth describing their depression and/or suicidal behavior. This can inadvertently glorify or romanticize suicidal thinking and behavior.
- Avoid videos in which the primary focus is on someone who has died by suicide
- Avoid videos that present suicide/suicidal thinking as normal in teens or as a common reaction to stress. Most young people who experience stress do not consider suicide.
- Avoid showing videos on suicide prevention to large groups or assemblies of young people. This topic that is best addressed in small groups and with support staff on hand.
Recommended | Recommended with Minor Reservation | Not Recommended
The AAS Video Review Committee is please to recommend "Reaching Out," a 21-minute educational DVD produced by the Crisis Intervention & Suicide Prevention Center of British Columbia. The stories of characters Sarah and Jason are interspersed with real young adults whose lives were touched by suicide. The suicide prevention messages in the DVD are clear and well presented; there was no glamorization of suicidal behavior and no stigmatization of suicide attempters and survivors. The warning signs for suicide are clearly identified; adult resources are suggested and help-seeking behaviors are modeled. Accompanying the DVD--appropriate for high school aged youth-- is a 13-minute simulation for school counselors. We see Jason again; this time in conversation with his counselor, Mr. Benton. A risk assessment is modeled that includes the development of a treatment plan for this high-risk student. "Reaching Out" was thoughtfully crafted, is of very high quality and replaces their original video--"Choices"-- which this review committee recommended years ago. Both Choices2: "Reaching Out" DVDs include workshop presentation materials and facilitator guides. We would love for the Crisis Center to develop a DVD that would simulate for school personnel the way to engage parents about their suicidal child.
To purchase or find out more information about these DVDs, go to www.choices2.com.
A Cry for Help
This video was produced by Paraclete Press. It is appropriate for middle and high school-aged youth. It comes with a resource guide; the video runs 22 minutes. The suicide prevention messages in "A Cry for Help" are clear and well presented. This video describes effective suicide intervention skills but does not necessarily model them. This video utilizes a clinical social worker (Sue Eastgard - Past-President of AAS) as well as young people from grades 6-12 who have learned warning signs for suicide and how to help.
To order go to www.paracletepress.com
Depression: On the Edge
"On the Edge" was produced by In the Mix, a PBS weekly series for teens. The video comes with a lesson plan and discussion guide. It is appropriate for high school-aged youth. The suicide prevention messages in "On the Edge" are clear and well presented and protective factors are promoted. The video utilizes a variety of presenters including psychologists, depressed youth and members of the rock band, Third Eye Blind. This video could easily be shown in segments without losing its overall value.
For more information, visit castleworks.com or youtube inthemixPBS.
To order call 1-914-769-2108 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
"Never Enough," developed with guidance from child psychologists Dr. Kirk Wolfe, was reviewed along with the accompanying school-based suicide awareness program know as RESPONSE. The video is appropriate for high school students and their parents and the committee thought that it might also be useful with college students. The content emphasizes help-seeking skills; it does not glamorize suicide or suicidal behaviors. It's prevention messages are clear and well-presented and the reviewers found the video to be compelling. One reviewer commented "the hero was the helper, not the suicidal person." Of particular note was the way in which the young "hero" had to use his intervention skills with the mother of a suicidal friend. The committee was enthusiastic in its praise for "Never Enough." Response is a comprehensive high-school based suicide awareness other DVDs. While the committee could not accurately score the parent and staff in-service DVDs using our screening criteria, we felt the quality was high, that the suicide prevention messages were clear; and that the components of the package nicely complemented each other.
To order, call the ColumbiaCare Services, Inc. 1-541-607-7322
Suicide: A Guide to Prevention (Second Edition)
This video was created by a group of teens with help from counselors for the purpose of showing young people what to do when a peer is talking about suicide or showing warning signs. Appropriate intervention and help-seeking behaviors are modeled through role-plays that demonstrate friends helping friends; all of the role-plays demonstrate involving an adult in the intervention. The video will work well either as a stand-alone tool or as a companion video to "A Life Saved" within any school-based youth suicide prevention curriculum that focuses on improving help seeking. NoodleHead Network in Vermont produced this 13-minute video, appropriate for grades 8-12. A printed leader's guide is included. This video is one of two suggested for use within the Lifelines curriculum. Both videos are unique in their brevity, allowing plenty of time for class discussion and debriefing.
Both are available from The NoodleHead Network, 1-800-639-5680 or www.noodlehead.com
The Truth about Suicide
This 26-minute video, produced by Ant Hill Marketing for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), is highly recommended by the committee. It was designed for a college-aged audience but could be used at the high school level as well. The video avoids stigmatizing suicide attempters, survivors, and those who have died by suicide. It does not in any way glamorize suicide or suicidal behavior. The suicide prevention messages are clear and well presented. While effective suicide intervention and help-seeking skills are discussed and advocated, the video should be combined with instruction and role-play to maximize learning.
For more information, call AFSP at 1-888-333-AFSP or go to www.afsp.org
Recommended with Minor Reservation
Inside I Ache
"Inside I Ache" was produced by Rabbi Daniel A. Roberts and TEE Productions and is recommended with some reservations. The video includes a teacher's manual and is appropriate for high-school aged students. While the content was accurate and the video does not stigmatize or glamorize suicide, the committee would have preferred to see a greater discussion of appropriate intervention skills and more resource information. "Inside I Ache" is accompanied by the video, "You Can Do It" which is divided into two part. Part I (a 10-minute segment) is geared for school board members, superintendents and principals. Part II is longer (22 minutes) and designed for educators who will be teaching the curriculum. Both pieces are intended as encouragement that they can and should teach suicide without worrying that they are going to cause it.
To order, call (216) 831-1353
It's Never Too Late
This DVD was developed by Human Relations Media and is distributed by Film Ideas - www.filmideas.com. We are recommending this educational video with reservation. The young people's depression and suicidal feelings are communicated clearly, but the DVD would have been stronger if the three intervention steps - show that you care, ask directly about suicide, and get help - had been modeled, not just discussed. The committee had concern about some of the expert' comments, i.e., "without guns, suicide rates in the US would plummet". We question the appropriateness of one of the experts who suggested that a friend should remove lethal means and ask questions about the suicide plan. In our opinion these are intervention strategies best used by a professional, not the adolescent friend. On the positive side, the DVDs suicide prevention messages are clear and well presented. There is no stigmatization of suicide victims or attempters and suicide is not glamorized. This DVD was produced in 2005 and identifies 1-800-SUICIDE as a resource, not the newer Lifeline number. "It's Never too Late" is part of a suicide prevention curriculum and we understand that the teacher's guide does include role-play practice, pre and post survey questions and a discussion guide.
To purchase the DVD, go to www.filmideas.com
Lost and Found
This DVD could not be scored - by utilizing the committee's review process - but we did preview and would recommend with reservation. The 21-minute DVD showcases eight youth who describe their experience of depression and respond to the narrator's thoughtful questions about what was helpful in their recovery and what friends can do to help a depressed friend. The committee was not convinced that young people telling their personal stories necessarily translates to skill acquisition. While the youth were very descriptive of their despair - "it was like a built-in ditch" - the committee was concerned that the stories were not particularly hopeful. The DVD is distributed by Film Ideas.
To purchase the DVD, go to www.filmideas.com
Real People: Suicide and Depression
The 26 minute video, designed for 7-12th graders, was produced by Sunburst Visual Media. The video provides viewers with accurate information about the warning signs for depression and suicide and therefore is worthy of recommendation. The committee, however, was concerned that the intended audience would not be engaged - the presentation seemed stiff and overly scripted. The video is accompanied by a teacher's guide that includes follow-up activities. The reviewers recommend that in addition to viewing the video, students engage in role-play practice to enhance their learning.
To purchase the DVD, go to www.sunburstvm.com
After I'm Gone
"After I'm Gone" is a 23 minute video produced by Outreach Arts, Inc. with the objective of raising awareness about youth suicide. The video was designed for middle school students (and their parents) but the review committee is concerned that the video feeds into a fantasy held by some young people that they will be able to "hang around" after their death and thereby measure the impact of their absence of their peers. We also had concerns about the video's negative portrayal of parents and, while we appreciate that not all parents are perfect, we felt that the video goes overboard to highlight negative traits in adults.
Choices: A Promise for Tomorrow
This DVD is incorporated into a 5-part classroom curriculum and titled "A Promise for Tomorrow", it was developed by The Jason Foundation and is geared to high school students. The goal of an instructional video on suicide - weather it stands alone or is used in conjunction with a structured curriculum - should be to teach and promote help-seeking and help-giving skills. While the video clearly raises awareness about the issue and the consequences of suicide, the actual prevention instruction is lacking. For the most part the young people in the film are modeling behaviors that we do not want them to do, including cutting and preparing for suicide. We were uncomfortable with the images of family members at the grave-site and the baby photos of a deceased teen. Though these images speak to the tragedy of suicide loss, they inadvertently glorify suicidal behavior. Madelyn Gould's research associated with safe and effective messaging suggests that some styles of presenting or depicting suicide can inadvertently increase the risk for suicidal thinking and behavior among vulnerable youth and should be avoided.
Based on the 17-year old filmmaker's personal experience, Eternal High portrays a boy's true-life battle with depression and thoughts of suicide. The film provides insight into the thoughts and pain experienced by depressed, suicidal teens. The committee could not recommend this DVD because it does not meet specific criteria: 1) appropriate intervention and help-seeking skills are not modeled; 2) resource suggestions are not included; 3) protective factors are not promoted; and 4) the prevention messages are not clearly presented.
A Reason to Live
Media Projects (www.mediaprojects.org) has produced two versions of this documentary: a 52 minute adult version and a shorter (32 minutes) one for high school/college students. The committee reviewed both and scored the student version. While we were impressed by the comprehensive discussion guide, we are concerned that the film has very limited information on the help-seeking, with the exception of calling a crisis hotline. Some of the personal stories of the depressed and suicidal teens made it hard to believe that getting help would even be worthwhile. The detailed descriptions of the teens' suicide attempts are disturbing; while we understand that this was not the intention of the producers, they inadvertently portray depression and suicide as glamorous. The teens were presented as "experts" but their stories didn't teach how to recognize the warning signs or what to do if you notice the signs. The film - again the committee believes this was done inadvertently - connects the teens' vivid descriptions of destructive behaviors including self-injury, drinking, and sexual promiscuity to their relief from their pain. Finally, the teens' stories focused on external explanations for their pain, like being teased or ridiculed, but missed an opportunity to educate about what was going on in their brains that was causing them to have these harmful thoughts. We are not recommending this video for use in the classroom.