By: Kinsey Hedeen
The documentary short Four Sisters will premiere in Seattle on Monday, May 5, at 6:30 p.m. at the Social Work Commons at the University of Washington. The film focuses on four Texas women who each lost a brother to suicide.
Hosting the event is Forefront: Innovations in Suicide Prevention, a fairly new nonprofit affiliated with the UW that is dedicated to education about suicide. The event is free, but reservations are requested (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Forefront seeks to bring survivors, journalists, researchers, educators, health professionals, and policy makers together in efforts to prevent suicide, according to its website. In March 2014, Forefront was instrumental in the passage of HB 2315, making Washington the first state to require suicide prevention and training for doctors and nurses. Two years ago, Forefront co-founder Dr. Jenn Stuber, a UW professor of social work, and Rep. Tina Orwall (D-33rd District) built a coalition to help enact ESHB 2366, the “Matt Adler Suicide, Assessment, Treatment and Management Act of 2012,” which requires suicide prevention training for mental health professionals in the state of Washington. Matt Adler was Stuber’s husband; he killed himself in 2011. In 2013, Orwall was a sponsor of HB 1336, which sought to improve school districts’ capacity to respond to troubled youth.
Caley Cook, an award-winning journalist and lecturer with the UW Department of Communication, was moved to produce the film after losing her own brother, Garrett, to suicide in 2007. She found herself “hungry for information,” she said, adding that suicide is not only a subject that we don’t like to talk about; it’s a subject that we don’t like to even think about.
Cook said the film is structured as an open-ended conversation and is meant to encourage people to share their experiences. A panel discussion and social hour will follow it.
Sue Lockett John, a spokesperson for Forefront, called the evening’s activities “a community-building event.”
The film had great success in Austin where it premiered recently, Cook told a University of Washington communication class. She shared one special story. Speechless and crying after the film, a woman in the audience gestured to her husband to speak. Nearly speechless himself, the man asked the panelists, “What can I do for my wife? She has just lost her brother.” The panel members stopped their discussion immediately and walked over to the couple, embracing them.
Sue Eastgard, director of training for Forefront and former director of the Youth Suicide Prevention Program, said, “This documentary gives a voice for what is often unspoken and helps other loss survivors realize they are not alone.”
When asked what her hopes were for the film, Cook said, “My goal is that the audience leaves with a brighter picture, that’s my barometer of success.”
For more information about the film visit: www.foursistersdoc.com.
Kinsey Hedeen is a Communications student at the University of Washington.