Suicide is currently the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Nationwide, there are now over 48,000 suicide deaths per year. Worldwide, almost 800,000. And when you factor in the loved ones left behind, suicide impacts millions. And it’s getting worse - especially now because of COVID.
According to the CDC, during June 24–30, 2020, U.S. adults reported considerably elevated adverse mental health conditions associated with COVID-19. And a Nov 17th, 2020, New York Times article further stated that, "as shutdowns aimed at containing the virus have disrupted lives and led to social isolation, studies have shown an increase in anxiety and suicidal ideation."
So, what can we do?
We need to talk about suicide. We need to normalize conversations about it. Too often, suicide and mental illness still mean shame, fear, guilt, shadows. They're taboo - too serious and shocking to name. And we want to change that.
The World Health Organization, in a 2019 report, states that, "the factors contributing to suicide and suicide attempts and their prevention are complex, but there is increasing evidence that media – including films, documentaries and television programmes – can have both positive and negative impacts on suicidal behaviour… Content portrayed on screen informs the general public about social issues such as mental health which in turn affects public attitudes, creating an opportunity for those involved in the production of stage and screen content to contribute to suicide prevention… screen and theatre productions can contribute to suicide prevention and help save lives."
Big Sur is an opportunity for us to tell a nuanced, empathic and grounded story about mental health and suicide. It's a story that aims to encourage conversation, dispel harmful myths and move the needle on public awareness and attitudes.