Suicide-prevention advocates to host two showings of ‘My Ascension’ in Quad Cities through Friday

Yavapai County Suicide Prevention Coalition/Courtesy

Yavapai County Suicide Prevention Coalition/Courtesy

The compelling story of a teenage girl with seemingly everything going for her and her slide into a private despair that prompts her to try and kill herself is one area mental health, youth activists and the Yavapai County Suicide Prevention Coalition want to share with area teens and parents this week.

On Wednesday, Oct. 5, the coalition with its community partners will be showing the documentary film, “My Ascension,” at the Glassford Hill Middle School Auditorium in Prescott Valley, 6901 Panther Path, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The film is appropriate for middle school and high school youth as well as parents and community members who might wish to know more about how to combat suicide in their communities. The focus of the film is Emma Benoit of Louisiana, a 2017 high school cheerleader now on a quest to walk again and share her story of anguish and hope to those suffering in silence with depression and anxiety.

Beyond the film, the coalition will have available mental health professionals to answer questions or offer support to anyone who in need. There is no charge to attend this event and no registration.

Two evenings later, on Oct. 7, at 6 p.m., Polara Health has arranged with The Launch Pad Teen Center, 424 6th St., for another screening of the film, one that will be hosted at the same time for teens in their downstairs area with a separate screening for adults in their upstairs area. Again, there is no cost or registration required and there will be counselors available for a question-and-answer forum after the film.

The coalition, Polara Health, Community Counts and MatForce, the Yavapai County Substance Abuse Treatment Coalition, are partnering to share this film to a broad community audience because it offers insights into the realities of teens struggling to cope with assorted burdens that lead them to think they have no way out. Emma is proof that most teens, and adults, who die from suicide did not wish to end their life; they simply were searching for a way to end their pain. She admits early in the documentary that the moment she fired the gunshot that, ultimately, left her in a wheelchair she regretted her actions. In the pain of that moment, Emma said she knew she wanted to live.

In the years since her attempt, Emma has spoken with hundreds of teens, some who she is saddened died of suicide, and reinforced to them her will to become independent again – she can now walk and drive a car with assistance. She, too, is motivated to steer young people to the resources in their communities that can help. Her research introduced her to “Hope Squad,” a program initiated at a high school in Provo, Utah. The peer-to-peer program that trains high school students how to recognize and report concerns is one she helped launch at one local high school near her hometown. She hopes the “Hope Squad” program will spread to other places across the nation.

Emma’s journey has not been without its share of bumps, and she knows not everyone is open to hearing her message. For those who are willing to listen, though, Emma wants to make a connection; she wants anyone wrestling with their mental health, or sense of self, to know they are worthy and capable of finding a path forward.

On her website, Emma highlights some statistics: 20 teens and young adults die by suicide every day in the United States. In 2018, 7,618 men and women under the age of 25 died by suicide.

One community leader in Winn Parish, Louisiana praised Emma’s persistence in this effort as it is making a difference to those who think they must stand alone in their personal darkness. Emma’s spirit, perseverance, commitment, and effervescent smile, has proved a flashlight for many, the leader professed.

Across the nation now, anyone experiencing a mental health crisis, or suicidal thoughts, can dial 9-8-8 day or night. On the other end of that line will be a trained individual who can offer comfort and direct them to resources to help them through whatever crisis they might be experiencing in that moment.

In Prescott, the annual Out of the Darkness Community Walk to Fight Suicide will be held on Saturday, Oct. 22 at the A.C. Williams Granite Creek Park with registration at 9 a.m. and the walk at 10 a.m. The walk always includes speakers and resource tables to help people connect with area resources.

The filmmaker Greg Dicharry interviews families of other teens who have lost their lives to suicide, as well as a family of yet another teen who with supports opted for help rather than a funeral.

The first local showing of this film was in May at the Yavapai College Performing Arts Center. Some 150 mental health professionals and community members attended the program arranged through the coalition.

The coalition and its partners all are clear that the reason they want to circulate this film to as many people as possible is to do what Emma’s trying to do by sharing her story: “Save lives.”

At the close of the film, Emma can be seen walking down a pier to a beach. She takes her time, but with each step, even if she might lose her grip, propels her one step closer to her destination – a fitting analogy to all navigating their life journey.

For more in-depth information about Emma’s story, how to arrange a film screening and national statistics, visit www.myascension.us.

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