Nervous whispers fluttered through the air as students settled into their seats. The flimsy, cold plastic chairs provided a fleeting sense of comfort. Each face sparked a new conversation. Everybody searched for solace in company before what was bound to be a 90-minute emotional rollercoaster within the confines of Appleton Auditorium.
The Director of the Counseling Center, Dr. Brian Krylowicz, provided movie snacks for everyone and ran the post-film discussion. The film to be screened, co-directed, produced and written by Kevin Hines, was “Suicide the Ripple Effect.”
The film followed Hines as he told his story of surviving a suicidal leap off the Golden Gate Bridge and sits down with over 30 victims of suicide and depression. Having the word “suicide” in the title alone is enough to send unprepared individuals out the door.
The delicate topic brought together a variety of people from the Springfield College community. Some students came to be educated, some looked for poignant guidance, while others met the mandatory attendance notice on their Brightspace page.
Krylowicz briefed the audience about how the film has the ability to leave a sharp, haunting impact.
“I’m so sorry,” Hines and his father promptly said to one another in the hospital room after his perilous jump.
The film also focused on the impact that suicide and depression leaves on family and friends. The devastation of someone taking their own life sends shock waves through any family and community. Hines’ life sparked a light in a cause that has always been shrouded in darkness.
Within the film, Hines spoke with Jayne Newling, whose son took his own life 15 years prior. She still feels responsible, “no matter how many times people tell me it’s not my fault.” That need to protect her child leaves a bottomless emptiness within Newling. She constantly relives memories of her son, attempting to cure the past through the power of her imagination. To this day she’s haunted by the “what ifs.”
Any loved one taking their own life leaves a claustrophobic feeling of powerlessness. Whether it is wondering what could have been noticed earlier, or if one truly understood what was going on in their head, there is no clear closure. Most often, those impacted by the victims of suicide just want to understand the sharpening pain that had seemed invisible.
Krylowicz emphasised the importance of having open discussions regarding issues of suicide and depression. “I think what Kevin does so great is he’s having such an open discussion [believing that he] brings such a human face to this discussion,” he said. It is the accessible, judgement-free discussions that allow the proper outlets for people to express themselves.
During the post-film discussion, Krylowicz heavily stressed the power in simply checking in with those nearby and asking, “how are you” and “[reminding] people they’re not a burden and you want them to be a part of your life.” He discussed how, whether everybody wants to admit it all the time or not, each person needs to feel cared about. Saying it is an important aspect of humanity to have a range of support systems and for anybody going through pain to understand that the experiences of others can help to uplift them and get them through the negativity.
Krylowicz spoke about the nets that Hines and so many others tirelessly worked to get put up surrounding the ledge of the Golden Gate Bridge in prevention of suicide. He stressed the significance of minor changes and how massive of an impact they can make. “With the nets it’s just like…getting someone to not do it that day, how often they will move past feeling suicidal, and that’s what the nets are designed to do,” he said.
Having worked with students for over 20 years, Krylowicz brought the discussion to the students. Heads shot upward as pens dropped to their pads. He inquired concerning the types of nets that Springfield College has within its community. Silence engulfed the room. One audience member broke the silence, stating, “It’s conversations like this that show people its okay to not be okay.”
On campus, students go to the Counseling Center for a wide range of reasons. Krylowicz explained that while some students enter looking for guidance during a stressful week, “some are seriously considering [suicide] or are planning.” Regardless of why they came in, most regarded their experience as “wonderful, and life-changing.”
At Springfield College, the preparation never stops. “We do a lot of training before the semester starts,” he said. “We are doing a lot of work with the NSO Leaders, helping them be aware of the psychological issues that are out there.”
The Counseling Center is looking to get more involved inside of the classrooms as the school year goes along. The peer advocates are often doing programming for the Counseling Center about mental health issues. He praised the clubs on campus that promote mental health as well as the wellness classes for continuing to promote conversations around mental health. His curiosity was sparked at the mention of the Out of the Darkness community walk at School St. Park in Agawam, Massachusetts upcoming on October 20.
The Out of the Darkness walks work to raise awareness on suicide and depression. They provide a safe environment for survivors to express their personal experiences with each other. The event embodies an integral aspect of Hines’ film as well as the message of the Counseling Center here at Springfield College.
Healing comes through using the power of personal exposure to suicide/depression, and the perseverance that allowed people to overcome, to inspire those in need of hope.
Krylowicz says “students coming to us in that dark place [often] believe that hope doesn’t even exist.” Great guidance comes from those who truly understand the situation people are in and the inner struggle that comes with overcoming it. A film like “Suicide The Ripple Effect” inspires hope in the lives of people because it displays a person who had been wholly engulfed by the darkness of depression and has risen to become a bright light on the avenue of suicide prevention.
Photo courtesy of Suicide the Ripple Effect