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Suicide awareness film comes to campus — with a twist



Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for college students nationwide. Approximately 1,200 students nationwide died by suicide last year, according to Donna Miller, the Suicide Prevention Team Coordinator at the University. @@http://healthcenter.uoregon.edu/Directory/tabid/68/u429q/7C4E75727365205370656369616C747920436C696E6963/[email protected]@

Sharon Harbert, director of nursing at the University Health Center, cites leaving home for the first time, struggling with sexual orientation and questioning religious beliefs as some of the many reasons college students are especially susceptible to suicide.

“There’s lots of stresses on students,” she said. “To get good grades, to fit in, to be like everybody else.”

A screening of “Don’t Change the Subject,” a film that addresses how to discuss suicide from a new perspective, will be shown Thursday night at 7 p.m. in 177 Lawrence Hall.

Mike Stutz, the director of the film, chose to make this film after his mother committed suicide when he was 12 years old, and he subsequently felt the subject was not adequately discussed. @@http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2040326/@@

“At that time I was struck by the typical adult reactions when talking to a 12-year-old and how incredibly awkward they were. Everyone seemed to be walking on eggshells,” he said. “If they talked about it at all it was in vague cliches or condescending attempts at ‘she’s in a better place.’”

The University has a Suicide Prevention Team which gives suicide awareness presentations to faculty and staff, said Donna Miller, a coordinator for the program. @@http://healthcenter.uoregon.edu/Services/[email protected]@ @@http://www.uoregon.edu/findpeople/person/donna*[email protected]@

“Suicide prevention is everyone’s business. Know the warning signs and know what to do. And the University has resources, so use them,” Miller said.

The Family and Human Services department is offering a suicide awareness class for the first time this spring.

Active Minds, a University group, is working to reduce the stigma of discussing all forms of mental health. It is currently working on a “Stomp Out Stigma” campaign designed to reduce the stigma associated with mental health.

“I think that people feel any kind of mental health is embarrassing. If they’re feeling anxious or depressed in their minds I think it is a stigma,” Harbert said.  “And I think a lot of it is a lack of education, a lack of understanding. And we need to try to be more visibly accepting to make it easier for people.”

Stutz agrees.

“One of the best ways to stop suicidal feelings is to talk about them,” he said. “If you are feeling suicidal you need to talk to someone and to do this you must move beyond the shame that often accompanies these feelings.”

For the film, Stutz asked comics, artists, choreographers, musicians, animators and punk clowns to discuss suicide to try to view the subject from a new angle.

Ultimately, Stutz wants to raise awareness about suicide and prevent future suicides by making the traditionally taboo subject easier to discuss.

“I did this film to reach out, to spur conversation, even if that’s disagreement,” Stutz said. “And to help people end the terrible tragedy that is suicide.”

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