What do you think about when you hear “The S Word?” That’s a very uncomfortable question for many. Some may think of a curse word, some may think of an offensive word, and some may think of the triggering topic of self-harm. September is National Suicide Prevention Month, which is why UIS departments are working together to bring a documentary called “The S-Word” to campus on September 19, in order to break the silence and tear down the stigma surrounding suicide. These problems aren’t rare or unusual; according to studies done by the Center for Disease Control, suicide is the second most common cause of death for Americans between the ages of 10 and 34, and the tenth most common cause of death in the United States overall.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention lists a number of potential warning signs that someone may be contemplating suicide. Are they talking about killing themselves, feeling hopeless, having no reason to live, being a burden to others, feeling trapped, dealing with unbearable pain? Have they been drinking or using drugs more than usual, withdrawing from hobbies or activities they usually enjoy, isolating themselves from friends and family? Have they been not sleeping or sleeping constantly, giving away things they value, acting unusually aggressive or overly tired? Some of these may seem obvious and others on their own may be innocuous, but when confronted with warning signs, many have an instinct to try and rationalize it or to believe that someone they care about could never be considering suicide. However, anyone can have suicidal thoughts or feelings, and we should be watchful for the signs.
The S Word is a documentary directed by Lisa Klein, which features Dese’Rae Stage as its central subject, as Stage seeks out fellow suicide survivors in an attempt to put faces and stories to a major issue of the day and talk about an issue that many prefer to remain silent about. In her search, she encounters Asian Americans, African Americans, LGBTQIA Americans, and others, demonstrating the universal nature of the problem of suicide. The documentary also seeks to chip away at the stigma surrounding suicide and open the door for frank and empathic conversation. Stage also attended the Queertober opening event at UIS in 2017. After the screening, there will be a discussion session covering UIS and local resources, as well as advice on methods of coping and helping friends and loved ones who may be struggling. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255, or you can chat online at suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/. The UIS Counseling Center is in the Human Resources Building,HRB 64, and it’s open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. The Counseling Center can be reached at (217)-206-7122 during office hours, and their after-hours emergency line is (217)-206-7122. All counseling services are provided free of charge to students who have paid the Health and Counseling fee. Anyone who’s thinking about suicide, or is concerned about a friend or loved one, please make use of one of these resources or just speak to someone you trust. Help is out there.