As a journalist, I love to tell stories. As a documentary film producer, I want to explore tough topics. As a dad, I’ll do anything to protect my children and give them a healthy, happy life. When a project comes along that offers all three, it’s no coincidence. I believe it’s meant to be. Two years ago, Mickle Communications took on the topic of teen depression and suicide. We decided to bring awareness after a rash of suicides in our community. Some hit close to home. Two girls from our school district committed suicide within one month of each other. One was a recent graduate who had just begun her college education. The other was a 12 year old child.
As a journalist, I wanted to tell the story of those who lost children and were strong enough to stand back up after being knocked to their knees by grief. They became tireless advocates for other children and adults who are lost in the darkness of depression. As a documentary film producer, I wanted to go beyond the stories of loss. I wanted to offer help from experts. I wanted stories of other young adults who had contemplated suicide, but found a way to escape the darkness. How did they do it? How did they find help when so many others do not? Why aren’t more people involved in an effort to help those who desperately need it? As a dad, my heart ached for the families who lost children and for the childrenwho believed death was the best or perhaps only option. That beautiful 12 year old girl was one year younger than my daughter. That 12 year old girl has a younger brother. He played on the school playground with my youngest son when they were in elementary school. When word spread of her death, my daughter didn’t know how to talk with the girl’s sister about it. My son didn’t know what to say to the little brother. They’d never experienced something like this before. There were awareness efforts underway in our community. However, it became increasingly clear that someone with a loud voice needed to get involved and begin a community-wide conversation. That’s where, “If You Only Knew: The Journey Through Teen Depression and Suicide” began.
Creating a documentary is no easy task. We are not a large production house. We had 4-5 people work on the project. It features 3 families who lost children to suicide. We talk with 2 survivors. The first is a young woman who attempted suicide and thankfully was not successful. She offers words of hope to those who feel lost in the darkness. We also have a young man who contemplated killing himself and didn’t. Numerous experts offer advice, We have alarming statistics. We.Shed.Tears.
This documentary aired regionally on PBS. Based on reaction from the public, PBS affiliates decided to air it a second time. That led to a discussion with a CBS and CW affiliate in Rock Island, Illinois. As a result of those conversations, “If You Only Knew: The Journey Through Teen Depression and Suicide” became a prime-time news special. We gathered new content, including another family devastated by the loss of a child. We updated the numbers of suicides in the U.S. and we interviewed more experts. During all of this, 5 area mayors came together to declare Suicide Awareness Day in our community. There was a news conference where all the media attended. An expert spoke, the mother of that beautiful 12 year old girl attended and one of the mayors addressed the issue of suicide as an epidemic that needs to be addressed.
None of that happened because we used the latest camera equipment, fancy graphics and Hollywood lighting. It happened because we agreed to tackle a tough topic. We found people who were hurting and still opened their hearts and their homes to us. We looked for experts who could offer advice to those who are suffering. Have suicides ended in our area? Absolutely not. There is still much work to do. We’ve formed a non-profit. Healthy Happy Families Foundation is working on two initiatives right now to reach children in need. One of those initiatives is designed for preschool through 3rd grade. Our hope is to catch children at a young age and teach them to respect others and to listen to their feelings. Another one, is geared toward high school students in an effort to help them open up about “stuff” that is threatening their future or in some cases their lives. Below, you will find the links to our documentary, on Amazon Prime, Google Play and iTunes.
We’ve launched a plan to develop 8 documentaries. They fall under the heading of “The Dangers They Face.” They are teens and adolescents. We’ll tackle Human Trafficking, Opiod, Heroin and Meth addiction, Poverty, Unhealthy Relationships and a few other topics. If you’d like to get involved in our work, we are always looking for support. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out the If You Only Knew Documentary