Tell My Story
A grieving father seeks answers after his 14-year-old son dies by suicide. He uncovers painful truths about the lives of teens, the impact of unfettered access to internet and social media, and the shocking rise of depression among America’s youth. The journey brings him together with young suicide survivors, prevention experts, and parents trying to understand the 70% increase in adolescent suicide. Closer to home, with his family fractured, he examines his son’s technology use to discover what no parent wants to find. Seeking to find the warning signs that were missed, he instead finds ways to reverse the isolation and disconnectedness that is killing our youth.
Tell My Story grippingly and emotionally deals with the subject of suicide and is guaranteed to bring a tear or two to your eyes at some point. However, it is a captivating and very-effective documentary in explaining helpful hints to prevent it in the lives of others, especially teens. It is clearly the teen age group that suffers from this tragedy the most often. It’s stated that suicide is the second leading cause of death for the age group between 10 and 24. This powerful documentary features several people who share their story-people who lost a loved one to suicide or who actually survived it. The stories may be a bit different, and yet they are very similar. Each of the ones that committed the act tried to put on a smile or brave face, but there was a lot of hurt and self-doubt buried beneath the surface. And, regrettably, in some cases- bullying. The film kicks off with Mariangela Abeo, creator of Faces of Fortitude, bringing her video camera in to prepare to shoot this feature. She attempted suicide herself some time ago and lost her brother to it. Right away we meet Jason Reid, a father who lost his son Ryan to suicide. He tells the emotional story of receiving a text from Ryan, who also simultaneously texted his mother, sister, and two brothers, to say good-bye. He told Jason he was an amazing dad, more like a friend than a dad, “We could talk about anything,” says Jason. “We watched shows every night and a movie every Sunday.” Jason chokes up as he repeats what Ryan wrote in the following sentence: “I’m sorry it had to be this way. Don’t blame yourself. You were amazing and I’m so sorry. Good-bye.” Jason found a note in Ryan’s room that stated he thought about suicide a lot and often decided to put on a smile and to go downstairs. He had even cut his own legs, and not his wrists, in the past so his pain would not be visible. It’s obvious now that his depression, at the time, was overwhelming. But a note found in Ryan’s drawer offered hope to future teens and others who would contemplate suicide. It simply said, “Tell my story.” And Jason knew that Ryan was hoping to help prevent suicide in the lives of others. Jason elaborated that after such an event, the remaining family members ask, “What didn’t I see?” A few home videos of Ryan are showed, which gives a face to this sad and tragic story. Yet it is a story which offers hope for others. Many important thoughts stem from the people involved in this video. That in reflection they now realize that the moments of sadness which was seen in their loved ones was deeper rooted than first expected. Dad Jason shares that he thought he had to be strong for his kids and set a good example, but now wishes he would have asked the question, “Do you love yourself?” This seems to be a common thread that the victims grappled with loving themselves. The problems with social media are also explored in this relevant film. We see how that bullying online plays a huge part in some of the suicide numbers, and that some who have struggled with suicidal thoughts say that if they didn’t get a response or a “like” from something they posted on social media, that it ate at them, depressing them. Mariangela shares that she was hazed and tied to a telephone pole as a teen. In an amazing moment Red Gerard, who at age 15 won a gold medal for snowboarding, was asked how much time he had spent on social media and his phone? “None”, was his amazing answer. It gives a bit of insight into the fact that some teens are on it too much. As one teen admits, he also played video games all night and frequently went to school the next morning, which took a toll. One of the many touching moments in the film is a scene in which photos of victims of suicide are posted on a wall, and in one case it is said the victim, a male named Caleb, wanted to become a floral designer. He was bullied and took his own life. Another truth that is learned is that in most cases, the troubled person doesn’t need a parent or friend to try to “fix” their problem, but to listen to them. They need to spill the emotions they are feeling. At Christ Episcopal Church, Monique sits with Jason in a pew and shares her struggles. She prayed to God a lot but she adds that she couldn’t simply pray the depression away but needed real tools to handle it. She says this includes reaching out to others, and in some cases to both the school attended and to the family at home. “You need to reach out and advocate for yourself,” she says. This powerful, gripping, and emotional documentary opens up a lot of truth and statistics as to what is behind suicidal thoughts and how suicide might be prevented. It features the voices of some professional counselors in addition to the people who lived through the loss of a loved one. Ryan’s brother plays guitar and sings a song during the closing credits of the documentary. This film has merited our Dove seal for Ages 12+, although parents should consult the content listing. Some mature kids a bit under 12 might benefit from seeing this. The Dove Take: Watching this documentary might literally help in saving someone’s life, and it is done in a sensitive and caring way and is well worth seeing.