Film at MCC aims at suicide prevention


By Stacie Smith • Last Updated 2:57 pm on Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Suicide is a tragedy with long reaching consequences and its prevention is the goal of the film “Don’t Change The Subject” produced by Michael Stutz.

Stutz contacted Montcalm Community College Dean of Instruction and Faculty Gary Hauck to premier the movie in Montcalm County. Hauck said that it was Stutz’s intention to introduce the movie on college campuses around the country. Suicide can still be considered a taboo subject but that is exactly what Stutz wants to change.

“It (the movie) can be offensive to some, but sometimes you have to be offensive to get attention,” Hauck stated as a remark Stutz made about his intentions behind the film.

Hauck reviewed the film and remarked that rather than being a documentary of statistics on suicide rates, “Don’t Change the Subject” takes an avant garde approach to the subject and does so in a story telling format. The film raises questions about faith, influential factors, forgiveness, denial and how suicide affects an entire family. Having been personally touched by suicide, Hauck was especially moved to offer viewing of the film on both the Sidney and Greenville campuses of MCC.

“My father committed suicide when I was 15,” Hauck said. “I was very privileged to have people in my life and I had a lot of strong support.”

Within the general population one which has been profoundly affected by suicide is the military, specifically the United States Army. As published in an article on March 9, 2012 on cbsnews.com, suicide rates within the Army have increased 80 percent between 2004 and 2008. Greenville High School graduate Matthew Christensen has been involved in suicide and its prevention, serving as an Army medic.

Having served multiple tours of duty in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, Christensen has witnessed firsthand events that affect him presently and have caused the demise of those serving along his side. Being a medic, Christensen is swift in providing care both physically and mentally for soldiers on the front line of combat. Christensen himself is reluctant to perform even basic tasks after the high intensity of warfare and trying to transition to civilian life. He remarked that a trip to the store can be overwhelming and has rendered him nearly catatonic.

Victims of self-inflicted death have to be seen as inanimate objects rather than a individuals in order for Christensen and other soldiers to cope with the aftermath. Christensen feels privileged in his role as an Army medic to help those who also serve. It is in this role he has been personally affected by the grips of depression and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“I have a friend who didn’t come up for formation so I went to his room and found him with an empty bottle of pills in his hand,” Christensen said, “I gave him charcoal and pumped his stomach, he had swallowed 42 pills.”

Fortunately Christensen’s friend survived and he sees a failed suicide attempt as an opportunity for someone to receive the help desperately needed. Having seen the horrific sign of mankind and the casualties of war, Christensen is at risk for various clinical mental disorders as well. He takes several medications to alleviate the symptoms he suffers, but still remains grounded and positive in his outlook.

“I have been diagnosed with moderate to severe PTSD and depression but have never contemplated suicide, I have too much to live for,” Christensen said.

Resources are available for those who are considering suicide both in the civilian and military communities. In the Army they have a suicide prevention program with the acronym ACE which stands for Ask, Care and Escort. The first step for those trained in the program is to ask an at risk soldier if they are thinking about suicide. Those in the civilian community can contact a national hot line to speak with a trained volunteer. 800-273-TALK (8255) is available 24 hours daily and provides immediate help over the phone and also gives information for a caller to contact a mental health professional for further assistance.

Screening of Michael Stutz’s “Don’t Change the Subject” will be at noon Wednesday and 7 p.m. Thursday in room M129 at Montcalm Community College’s Stanley and Blanche Ash Technology and Learning Center, formerly M-TEC, at the Greenville campus and noon and 7 p.m. Sept. 20 in rooms D303-305 in MCC’s Beatrice E. Doser Building on the Sidney campus.

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