Last Friday afternoon, PEERS, in cooperation with Crisis Support Services of Alameda County, The San Francisco Foundation, and Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Services, hosted a screening of the documentary film “The S-Word” at the New Parkway Theater in Oakland, California.

“The S-Word” chronicles an attempt survivor’s journey to connect with other people whose lives have been touched by suicide in some way. The movie centers around noted photographer Dese’rae Stage as she interviews fellow suicide survivors and shares their stories online. Other people featured in the film include activists and family-members of survivors and victims alike.

s-word, suicide, film, oakland, mental health, new parkway, peer support, peers

This movie addresses the silence and stigma surrounding suicide by asking viewers to engage with the issue in an unflinching and empathetic manner. Filmmaker Lisa J. Klein, who was in attendance at Friday’s event, sees the project as a instrument for challenging prevailing depictions of suicide by getting people to talk openly about their experiences.

Former PEERS employee, and mental health advocate, Kelechi Ubozoh, who is featured in the movie, also attended last week’s screening. At a question and answer session after the end of the film, Kelechi shared that the topic of suicide is especially taboo in the African American community. Kelechi hopes that by sharing her story, she can encourage more people of color to reach out for support, because suicide does not discriminate.

Altogether, “The S Word” suggests that the best way to address to life’s most difficult and distressing moments is through openness, interpersonal connection, and honesty. What the movie demonstrates — through the way that each individual story weaves together into a greater whole — is that even unthinkable tragedy can foster community and belonging in unexpected ways.

PEERS wants to thank everyone who attended the movie last week, especially Lisa J. Klein, Kelechi Ubozoh, Nancy Salamy, Leah Harris, and all the support specialists from Crisis Support Services. We are extremely grateful for all our participants and the larger Bay Area community.