The Purpose of the Video Review Committee
The American Association of Suicidology (AAS) is frequently asked for recommendations for appropriate suicide prevention videos for different kinds of audiences.
The AAS video review committee is made up of AAS members from different professional affiliations and academic backgrounds. Videos are reviewed independently by committee members and scored according to specific criteria. Neither the individual committee members nor AAS receives financial compensation for this activity.
Once the independent scoring is completed, reviewers meet to discuss their scoring and determine a finding of recommended, not recommended, and recommended with minor reservation. See also other videos of interest.
The AAS Video/DVD Review Committee is pleased 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 or 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 many 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. The video describes effective suicide intervention skills but does not necessarily model them. The 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.
You can order on-line at www.paracletepress.com.
A Life Saved
This ten-minute video tells the true story of a suicide intervention performed by three boys who had just completed a suicide prevention unit called "Lifelines - A School-Based Response to Youth Suicide." The students and guidance counselor who were actually involved tell the story in a documentary style. In addition to informing adults and youth about how to intervene in suicidal behavior, the video clearly illustrates the value of teaching youth about suicide prevention. Printed guidelines are included to aid discussion. "A Life Saved" was produced in cooperation with the Maine Youth Suicide Prevention Program. It works very well as a companion to the video, "Suicide. A Guide to Prevention. Second Edition" (see separate review below). Both videos are intended for use with any school-based youth suicide prevention curriculum that focuses on improving help-seeking. Both are suggested as part of the "Lifelines" student lessons and are appropriate for grades 8-12.
Both videos are available from The NoodleHead Network at 1-800-639-5680 or www.noodlehead.com. For questions specific to "A Life Saved," contact Susan O'Halloran at email@example.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.
Visit the website for this program. To order call (800) 597-9448 or go on-line at www.pbs.org.
"Never Enough,"developed with guidance from child psychologist Dr. Kirk Wolfe, was reviewed along with the accompanying school-based suicide awareness program known 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 program that now has two additional educational components: one for parents and another for teachers and school staff; each component includes a DVD that is linked with the 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.
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" (reviewed above) 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 at 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 the learning.
For more information call AFSP at 1.888.333.AFSP or go on-line at 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 parts. Part I (a 10-minutes 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 experts’ 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 DVD’s 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.
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 – www.filmideas.com
Real People: Suicide and Depression
This 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.
The committee would suggest that the video be previewed prior to purchase; Sunburst Visual Media does have a free 30-day trial policy; call 1.800.431.1934 or go on-line at 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 on 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.
We did not think that the video clearly advocated suicide prevention. Protective factors were not promoted and effective suicide intervention skills were not discussed, advocated or modeled. “After I’m Gone” powerfully dramatizes the tragedy of suicide, but we do not believe that it is an educational video. The video package does include a discussion guide and follow up activities that are intended to enhance the learning experience. However, we know that videos frequently get separated from their discussion guides and even when they are together, educators are not always comfortable and confident to lead that discussion. For these reasons, we are not recommending “After I’m Gone”.
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 – whether 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 gravesite 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.
We were also concerned that the adults in the video are portrayed in a negative light; most are presented as either weak, demanding or threatening and abusive. This misses an opportunity to 1) teach and model the essential skill of approaching a trusted adult for help, and 2) remind teen viewers that many adults are safe and trustworthy resources.
Though the video is promoted as a discussion starter ( to be used in conjunction with a classroom curriculum) we believe that the concerning themes and images presented in this DVD could easily over power – or undo – the opportunities for learning through the classroom discussions. The fact that the curriculum involves watching the video twice is particularly concerning, not only for the additional exposure to glorified undesirable behavior but also because for the instructional time taken, there is very little depiction of young people modeling the behaviors and conversations that we believe are most essential in an instructional presentation.
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 3) 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 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 that 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.
Other Videos / DVD's of Interest
Depression…What YOU Can Do!
This 22 minute video was produced by PBS’s weekly series for teens, called In the Mix. This film is primarily directed at middle school students and while it does not specifically model help-seeking and help-giving skills, it does use youth voices to communicate important messages, such as “it is not okay to keep a secret about depression and suicide”, and “cutting doesn’t help”. In addition to the group of young teens, the film utilizes the expertise and experiences of a school counselor and child psychiatrist. We could not score the video using the AAS approved review tool as it is not a suicide specific film.
More than Sad: Teen Depression
Because the focus of this AFSP-produced film is teen depression and not suicide, the committee could not score this very good video. The key aims of this 20 minute video are to help teens (ages 14 – 18) recognize depression in themselves or their friends, and to encourage them to seek help. The facilitator’s guide that accompanies the video is excellent and includes information on depression and a suggested lesson plan.
Suicide Assessment and Prevention for Older Adults: Life Saving Tools for Health Care Professionals
The Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health developed this interactive case-based video and included it in a “Late Life Suicide Prevention Toolkit”. The toolkit also includes the CCSMH national guideline for assessment of suicide risk and the prevention of suicide, a clinician pocket card and a facilitator’s guide. The committee was not able to score this video, but our overall impression was positive.
The Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide has developed a number of educational videos, this one for parents. Since the intended audience was not youth, we were not able to score it, but our impression was positive, even with the artificial nature of the asking and answering of parents’ questions. The video dispelled myths and provided accurate information about youth suicide.
Working Minds: Suicide Prevention in the Workplace
Men Get Depression
Fierce Goodbye, Surviving Suicide: Those Left Behind
More Life to Live
Faces of Suicide: the Making of the Central Coast Suicide Survivors Quilt
Seeing Our Way Through