Metrofocus: September 13, 2022

“FACING SUICIDE”: NEW PBS INITIATIVE INVESTIGATES ONE OF AMERICA’S MOST URGENT HEALTH CRISES 

Suicide is a leading cause of death impacting virtually every demographic with 130 Americans dying every day.  The new PBS documentary and impact campaign, “Facing Suicide,” is pushing to destigmatize this public health crisis.  Tonight, the steps we can take to help those in crisis and save lives.  Plus, what is being done to prevent suicide among currently and formerly incarcerated people, an issue The WNET Group explores as part of this initiative in “Learning to Live: The Resilient Path After Prison.”  Joining us for this crucially important conversation are James Barrat, director of the PBS documentary “Facing Suicide”; Stephen Thomas, who is featured in “Learning to Live” and discusses his lived suicide experience while incarcerated; and Dr. Juan Rios, a licensed psychotherapist also featured in the film.

If you are thinking of suicide or are in emotional crisis, please call or text 988, or chat www.988Lifeline.org (@988Lifeline) for free, confidential support 24/7.

 

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Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America is a multi-platform public media initiative that provides a deeper understanding of the impact of poverty on American society. Major funding for this initiative is provided by The JPB Foundation. Additional funding is provided by Ford Foundation.

TRANSCRIPT

> TONIGHT, FACING SUICIDE, WE GO INSIDE THE NEW PBS INITIATIVE DESTIGMATIZING THE PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS THAT'S KILLING 130 AMERICANS EVERY DAY.

THE QUESTION WE SHOULD ALL BE ASKING TO HELP SAVE LIVES.

'METROFOCUS' STARTS RIGHT NOW.

♪♪

> THIS IS 'METROFOCUS,' WITH RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD, AND JENNA FLANAGAN.

> 'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND, BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION.

AND BY --

> LONELY.

REALLY LONELY.

I DIDN'T KNOW HE WAS DEPRESSED.

I SHOULD HAVE SAW THE SIGNS, BECAUSE HE WAS ALWAYS IN HIS ROOM AND JUST KEPT TO HIMSELF, BUT, YOU KNOW, I DIDN'T THINK ANYTHING OF IT.

I DID HAVE A LOT OF PEOPLE THERE FOR ME, BUT I WAS JUST PUSHING THEM AWAY.

THE CDC IS APPROACHING SUICIDE AS A PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS.

WHEN I THINK ABOUT WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IF I HAD NOT GOTTEN HELP, NO WAY WOULD I BE ALIVE TODAY.

EVENTUALLY ASK HER, WAS SHE PLANNING TO HURT HERSELF?

AND SHE SAID YES.

BUT THEN SHE WENT INTO ACTION LIKE A SUPERHERO.

GOOD EVENING, AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.

THAT CLIP YOU JUST SAW IS FROM 'FACING SUICIDE,'. A NEW PBS DOCUMENTARY AND IMPACT CAMPAIGN PUSHING TO DESTIGMATIZE AN ISSUE THAT'S OFTEN HARD THE TALK ABOUT.

SUICIDE IS THE LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH IN THE UNITED STATES, IMPACTING VIRTUALLY EVERY DEMOGRAPHIC, WITH 130 AMERICANS DYING EVERY DAY.

BUT EXPERTS HAVE RECENTLY LEARNED A LOT MORE ABOUT THIS ISSUE, AND TONIGHT WE'RE EXPLORING THE STEPS WE CAN ALL TAKE TO HELP THOSE IN CRISIS AND THE QUESTION WE SHOULD ALL BE ASKING.

AS PART OF THIS INITIATIVE, THE WNET GROUP IS ALSO HIGHLIGHTING SUICIDE PREVENTION AMONG CURRENTLY AND FORMERLY INCARCERATED PEOPLE IN THE SHORT FILM 'LEARNING TO LIVE, THE RESILIENT PATH AFTER PRISON'. FOR MUCH MORE ON THIS CRITICAL PUBLIC HEALTH ISSUE, LET'S WELCOME TONIGHT'S PANEL, WHO JOIN US AS PART OF OUR CHASING THE DREAM INITIATIVE ON POVERTY, JUSTICE, AND ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY IN AMERICA.

FIRST, WE HAVE AWARD WINNING FILMMAKER JAMES BARRETT.

JAMES IS PRODUCER OF THE PBS DOCUMENTARY 'FACING SUICIDE'. JAMES, WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

GOOD TO BE HERE, JENNA.

NEXT I'D LIKE TO WELCOME STEVEN THOMAS, OR SMOKE AS HE'S KNOWN.

STEVEN IS FEATURE IN THE 'LEARNING TO LIVE,' DISCUSSING HIS LIVED SUICIDE EXPERIENCE WHILE INCARCERATED.

HE'S NOW THE COMMUNITY COORDINATOR FOR DRUM, WHICH WORKS TO IMPROVE BROOKLYN FOR ALL NEW YORKERS.

STEVEN, WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS..'

WELCOME, AND THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

AND FINALLY I'D LIKE TO ROUND OUT OUR PANEL WITH A LICENSED PSYCHOTHEIR MISS.

DR. RIOS IS A PROFESSOR AT SETON HALL UNIVERSITY.

THANK YOU FOR JOINING US.

PLEASURE TO BE HERE.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

ABSOLUTELY.

FIRST I WANT TO START RIGHT IN WITH THE FILM, THE DOCUMENTARY 'FACING SUICIDE'. JAMES, WHAT I FOUND SO FASCINATING ABOUT THE FILM IS THAT WHILE IT EXPLORES THIS CRISIS THROUGH THE STORIES OF AMERICANS WITH LIVED EXPERIENCE OR WHO HAVE DIED BY SUICIDE, WHAT ARE THE STORIES THAT YOU FOCUS IN ON IS A YOUNG BASKETBALL STANDOUT WHO SEEMINGLY HAS EVERYTHING.

AND WHAT I FOUND SO POIGNANT ABOUT THAT IS A LOT OF PEOPLE'S PERHAPS MISUNDERSTANDING AROUND THE SUBJECT IS WHEN SOMEONE SEEMS TO HAVE EVERYTHING, THE RESPONSE IS, WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO BE SAD ABOUT?

SO WHY WAS IT IMPORTANT TO INCLUDE THAT STORY?

WELL, THE STORY OF GREG WHITESELL IS IMPORTANT IN A NUMBER OF WAYS.

OUR MAIN POINT -- PURPOSE FOR MAKING THIS FILM WAS REALLY TO TRY TO COMMUNICATE TO PEOPLE, WHAT ARE SOME OF THE SIGNS OF SUICIDE AROUND YOU?

THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU, THE COLLEAGUES, YOUR LOVED ONES?

WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND WHAT DO YOU DO?

WE WANTED EACH CHARACTER TO BRING A LOT OF TAKEAWAYS WITH THEIR STORIES.

IT WAS IMPORTANT BECAUSE GREG IS A YOUNG MAN, AND RIGHT NOW SUICIDE'S THE SECOND BIGGEST KILLER OF YOUNG PEOPLE BETWEEN THE AGES OF 10 AND 24.

THAT'S THE SECOND BIGGEST KILLER.

SO HE WAS A NATIVE AMERICAN.

NATIVE AMERICANS HAVE UP TO TEN TIMES THE SUICIDE RATE OF WHAT'S AVERAGE IN AMERICA.

HE ALMOST KILLED HIMSELF IN THE MIDDLE OF A CLUSTER OF SUICIDES, AND THAT'S A GROUP OF SUICIDES THAT SPREAD THROUGH WHAT'S CALLED SUICIDE CONTAGION.

WE WERE ABLE TO TEACH A LOT OF THINGS, SHOW A LOT OF THINGS AND DELIVER A LOT OF TAKEAWAYS WITH GREG'S STORY.

PLUS HE'S JUST A FABULOUS YOUNG MAN, AND WE WERE THRILLED TO BE ABLE TO TELL HIS STORY.

DR. RIOS, I WANT TO TURN TO YOU AND JUST GET YOUR EXPERT OPINION, BECAUSE I THINK THAT'S SOMETHING IMPORTANT TO TOUCH ON IS HOW LITTLE UNDERSTANDING AMERICANS SEEM TO HAVE ABOUT THIS SUBJECT, EVEN IF THEY HAVE FIRSTHAND EXPERIENCE.

ABSOLUTELY.

AND I THINK IT'S SOMETHING THAT FIRST WE -- WHENEVER WE TALK ABOUT SUICIDALITY, WE HAVE TO TALK ABOUT HOW WE VIEW, EMBRACE, AND ALSO WORK THROUGH MENTAL HEALTH CHALLENGES.

SUICIDALITY, AS WE KNOW, SO.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS CAN BEGIN FROM FEELING ISOLATED, WORTHLESSNESS, START SEEING SIGNS OF WANTING -- TALKING ABOUT DIEING AND BEING A BURDEN ON OTHERS.

WHEN THE COMMUNITY DOES NOT TALK ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH, THEN IT'S A FURTHER STEP ABOUT DISCUSSING OPENLY SUICIDALITY, AND I THINK IT'S VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT AS WAS MENTIONED EARLIER TODAY, THAT IT IS A HIGH RISK FACTOR OF DEATH FOR YOUNG PEOPLE AND THAT SUICIDAL IDEATIONS ARE HIGHEST AMONGST FOLKS, YOUNG PEOPLE BETWEEN THE AGES OF 18 TO 25.

SO AS WE THINK ABOUT AND CONCEPTUALIZE SUICIDALITY IN OUR COMMUNITY, WE ALSO HAVE TO BE MINDFUL OF THE IMPACT OF MENTAL HEALTH AS WE LOOK AT PREVENTIVE MEASURES AND ENSURE THAT FOLKS DON'T FEEL ISOLATED, WORTHLESS, CARRYING THESE THOUGHTS OF SHAME AND GUILT, AND THEN IT BEGINS TO MOVE INTO THOUGHTS OF, I DON'T NEED TO BE HERE.

I DON'T WANT TO BE HERE.

BECAUSE I'M NOT CONNECTED.

WELL, AND I DO WANT TO MOVE ON IN A MOMENT TO MR. THOMAS, BUT DOCTOR RIOS, I JUST WANT TO GO A LITTLE BIT DEEPER.

YOU MENTIONED THAT SUICIDE IDEATION IS HIGHEST AMONGST A CERTAIN AGE GROUP.

IS THERE PERHAPS A BRAIN DEVELOPMENT, A SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT, A CHEMICAL -- IS THERE A REASON FOR THAT AGE GROUP TO BE THE MOST VULNERABLE?

LET'S BEGIN TO CONCEPTUALIZE DEVELOPMENTAL STAGES.

NOW AS WE'RE ALL BEING EXPOSED TO NOT JUST SOCIAL MEDIA BUT SHIFTED INTO HOW WE VIEW COMMUNITY, HOW WE VIEW CONNECTEDNESS, ENGAGEMENT IN FEELING THE SENSE OF BELONGING -- ABRAHAM -- DISCUSSED THE FEELING OF NEED AND BELONGING IS RIGHT AFTER THE FEELING OF SECURITY AND BASIC HUMAN NEEDS IS TO FEEL A BELONGINGNESS.

18 TO 25 YOU'RE BEGINNING TO -- IN OUR AMERICAN SOCIETY.

YOU'RE THINKING OF WHO YOU ARE AS AN ADULT, WHERE YOU BELONG, WHERE YOU DO NOT BELONG.

AND ALSO THE BRAIN IS STILL VERY MUCH GROWING AT THAT STAGE.

BUT REALLY I WANT TO FOCUS ON HOW WE AS A COMMUNITY VIEW OURSELVES AND OUR YOUNG PEOPLE BETWEEN THE AGES OF 18 TO 25 WHEN THEY'RE REALLY BEGINNING TO ESTABLISH WHO I AM IN THIS SPACE, WHO I AM IN RELATION TO MY COMMUNITY, MY FAMILY, AND WHAT IS MY PURPOSE.

AGES OF 18 TO 25, IF I'VE EXPERIENCED TRAUMA, IF I'VE EXPERIENCED INTERGENERATIONAL TRAUMA, COMMUNITY VIOLENCE, IF I'VE EXPERIENCED A SENSE OF DISCONNECTED AMONGST MYSELF AND WHO I AM ALREADY BEFORE THAT, BY THE TIME I'M STARTING TO THINK ABOUT WHO I WILL BECOME AND I DON'T HAVE THAT FUTURE, THEN IT BEGINS TO PULL ME FURTHER FURTHER AWAY AS TO MY WHY THAT'S REALLY KEEPING ME AND GROUNDING ME HERE INTO LIFE.

WELL, TAKING EVERYTHING THAT DR. RIOS JUST SAID INTO CONSIDERATION, MR. THOMAS, I WANT TO BRING YOU IN AND ASK US IF YOU CAN TAKE US THROUGH YOUR OWN LIVED SUICIDE EXPERIENCE WHILE YOU WERE INCARCERATED, AND DID ANYTHING THAT YOU WERE HEARING DR. RIOS SAY RING TRUE TO YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE?

A LOT OF THE THINGS THAT HE ED IS TRUE, EXACTLY.

WHEN YOU GO THROUGH HIGH SCHOOL FROM 14 TO 18, YOU'RE TRYING TO FIND YOURSELF, AND WHEN YOU CAN'T FIND YOURSELF, YOU FOLLOW SOMEBODY ELSE.

IF YOU FOLLOW SOMEBODY ELSE, MAY BE THE WRONG WAY, YOU'RE GOING GET YOURSELF JAMS UP, DON'T WANT TO DEAL WITH THE CONSEQUENCES.

YEAH, YOU'RE DEFINITELY TRYING TO FIND A WAY TO BE MORE SOCIAL AND DEFINITELY WANT TO BE BELONGING AND ALL OF THOSE THINGS COME BACK AND HAUNT YOU.

IN MY CASE, I'M THE OLDEST OF SEVEN KIDS.

I GREW UP FROM THE '70s TO THE '80s.

BY THE END OF THE '70s I WAS 16.

I WAS TRYING TO FIND MYSELF.

THE VIETNAM WAR WAS OVER.

TWO UNCLES I HAD -- I HAD MY FATHER AND TWO UNCLES.

BOTH OF THEM WAS TOTALLY DAMAGED.

I DON'T KNOW IF THEY WAS DAMAGED BEFORE I WAS BORN, BUT THEY WAS DAMAGED AND THEY SHOWED ME NOTHING.

NOTHING.

SO I HAVE MY FATHER AND WHAT I SEEN IN THE COMMUNITY.

HOWEVER, THE BACKLASH OF ALL THIS IS WHEN YOU PUT IN A CAGE, YOU HAVE NOTHING BUT YOURSELF.

AND THE PAIN THAT YOU FEEL FROM EVERYBODY THAT YOU HURT MAKE YOU WANT THE HURT YOURSELF, MAKE YOU WANT TO JUST -- YOU FEEL LIKE IF YOU WAS TO TAKE YOURSELF OUT OF THE SITUATION, EVERYBODY THAT YOU LOVE WOULD JUST CONTINUE TO MOVE AND EVERYTHING WOULD BE BEAUTIFUL.

BUT IT DON'T WORK LIKE THAT.

IF I WASN'T SO STRONG, I PROBABLY WOULD HAVE.

BUT I WAS SO STRONG WHAT HAPPENED WAS -- I ALWAYS WAS E-SEEKER FOR KNOWLEDGE.

I GOT INTO THE THERAPEUTIC FIELD, YOU KNOW, AND THAT THERAPEUTIC FIELD HELPED ME ALONG WITH A FEW MENTAL HEALTH -- PSYCHOLOGISTS.

I HAD DR. PELKY WHEN I WAS IN UPSTATE NEW YORK.

HE TOLD ME WHAT I HAD.

I DIDN'T KNOW WHAT I HAD.

HE TOLD ME WHAT I WAS HAVING BECAUSE I WAS JUST TRYING TO DESTROY THE SELF.

HE TOLD ME I HAD AN ANXIETY ATTACK, AND THEN HE TOLD ME THE RESULT OF HOW THE PT -- PTS -- PTD -- POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER CAN CAUSE YOU TO HAVE THOSE TYPE OF EPISODES.

HE WENT IN, ASKED ME ABOUT MY HISTORY.

SUICIDE IS SOMETHING WE VERY MUCH NEED TO PAY ATTENTION TO, ESPECIALLY IN PRISON, BECAUSE WHEN WE GO TO -- AS AN EX OFFENDER, WHEN I WENT TO JAIL, MY MIND SET WAS 15 YEARS AGO.

AND IT KIND OF STAY IN THAT ZONE NO MATTER HOW MUCH TIME GO BY.

THAT GO FOR EVERYBODY, A MAN AND A WOMAN.

MM-HMM.

AND THAT ZONE, EVEN THOUGH YOU'RE GOING THROUGH YOUR THREE-YEAR PERIOD AND EVERYTHING, AND YOU NEVER -- IF YOU DON'T REALLY WORK ON YOURSELF MENTALLY, WHEN YOU COME BACK, YOU'RE KIND OF, LIKE, LOST.

AND MOST OF US IN THE REENTRY IS LOST WHEN WE COME OUT OF THIS.

IF WE DON'T -- WHILE WE'RE IN PRISON.

JAMES, I WANT TO BRING YOU BACK IN AND ASK, WHEN YOU WERE WORKING ON THIS FILM, WHAT WERE SOME OF THE THINGS THE EXPERTS WERE TALKING ABOUT THAT PEOPLE CAN OR SHOULD BE AWARE OF WHEN IT COMES TO THE WARNING SIGNS OR THE CRISIS SIGNALS WHEN SOMEONE IS GETTING CLOSE TO THEIR BREAKING POINT?

THAT'S REALLY IMPORTANT.

AS DR. RIOS SAID, THEY OFTEN WANT TO BE ALONE.

THEY PUSH PEOPLE AWAY FROM THEM.

THEY STOP DOING THE THINGS THEY REALLY LIKE TO DO, AND ALONG WITH THAT, THEY SOMETIMES GIVE THINGS AWAY THAT THEY LOVE.

SO THEY'RE KIND OF PUSHING LIFE AWAY.

THEY MAY SLEEP A LOT.

THEY MAY SLEEP TOO LITTLE.

SLEEPING -- BAD SLEEP IS ONE OF THE STRESS FACTORS FOR SUICIDE.

ALCOHOL IS INVOLVE IN THE ABOUT 20% OF AMERICAN SUICIDES, SO THEY MAY BE DRINKING OR USING TOO MUCH.

THEY COULD TALK ABOUT DEATH A LOT.

THEY COULD TALK ABOUT SUICIDE.

THEY COULD TALK ABOUT HOW THEY FEEL THEY ARE A BURDEN AND HOW EVERYONE WOULD BE BETTER OFF WITHOUT THEM.

NONE OF THESE THINGS ARE TRUE.

THEY COULD START DISPLAYING EXTREME MOOD SWINGS.

BUT I THINK THE BIGGEST ONE IS PROBABLY ISOLATION.

AND THEN YOU'VE GOT -- I'M SURE WE'LL GET TO IT, BUT YOU'VE GOT TO JUST BE ATTUNED TO THOSE THINGS.

IF YOU SEE A DRAMATIC CHANGE IN ANYONE'S BEHAVIOR, IT DOESN'T MEAN THEY MAY KILL THEMSELVES, BUT IT DOES MEAN THEY MAY BE AGITATED.

YOU NEED TO TALK TO THEM.

BUT DID ANY OF THE EXPERTS YOU SPOKE TO, DID THEY GIVE ANY SUGGESTIONS -- I ASK THIS QUESTION BECAUSE SO MUCH OF AMERICAN SOCIETY IS TAUGHT THAT, YES, I MIGHT SEE WARNING SIGNS OR WHATEVER, BUT I'M GOING TO MIND MY BUSINESS, OR I'M NOT GOING TO GET IN THEIR BUSINESS, OR THAT'S NOT MY PLACE.

SO I THINK A LOT OF AMERICANS ARE CONDITIONED TO PERHAPS NOT TOUCH ON THOSE ISSUES.

UNFORTUNATELY THERE'S A GREAT DEAL OF STIGMA AROUND MENTAL HEALTH AND SUICIDE, AND SO PEOPLE DON'T LIKE TO TALK ABOUT IT.

IT'S EMBARRASSING TO THEM.

IT'S EMBARRASSING -- THEY THINK IT'S EMBARRASSING TO THE PERSON WHO THEY WANT THE TALK TO.

BUT THEY NEED TO TALK TO THAT PERSON, AND THAT PERSON ACTUALLY GENERALLY WANTS TO TALK.

YOU HAVE TO BE ABLE TO SAY, ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT KILLING YOURSELF?

YOU HAVE TO BE ABLE TO ASK THE QUESTION.

AND IF YOU'RE -- IF THEY SAY NO, NO, I'M NOT THINKING ABOUT THAT AT ALL.

I'M DEPRESSED ABOUT THIS, UPSET ABOUT THAT -- YOU'RE NOT GOING TO TRIGGER THEM.

IT'S A BIG MYTH, AS MANY PEOPLE BELIEVE, IF YOU ASK SOMEONE IF THEY WANT TO KILL THEMSELVES THAT THEY'LL DO IT.

IT'S NOT A TRIGGER AT ALL.

IN FACT, IT'S AN INTRODUCTION TO HAVE A REAL CONVERSATION.

AND MAKE SURE YOU -- IF YOU'RE GOING TO ASK THE QUESTION, AND YOU SHOULD, MAKE SURE YOU'VE SET ASIDE TIME, BECAUSE IF THE ANSWER'S YES, YOU HAVE GOT MORE WORK TO DO.

DR. RIOS, THIS IS AGAIN WHERE I WANT TO BRING YOU BACK IN.

SO MUCH OF WHAT WE JUST HEARD, NOT ONLY JAMES TALK ABOUT BUT ALSO MR. THOMAS, THERE CAN BE COMPOUNDING ISSUES FOR PEOPLE, AND I'M WONDERING IF RESEARCH IS NOW BEARING OUT THAT WHILE YES, ISOLATION AND FEELING LOST AND NOT HAVING A PLACE CAN ADD TO SUICIDAL IDEATION, BUT CAN ALSO, FOR LOCK OF A BETTER DESCRIPTION, GENERATIONAL TRAUMA THAT UNFORTUNATELY THIS COUNTRY INFLICTED ON A LOT OF MINORITY GROUPS.

RIGHT, ABSOLUTELY.

I WANT TO CIRCLE BACK TO WHAT SMOKE MENTIONED EARLIER TODAY WOMEN SPOKE ABOUT POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER.

WHAT HAPPENS IS INDIVIDUALS DON'T OFTEN CLASSIFY FOR THIS CRITERIA ACCORDING TO THE DSM FOR POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER.

THEREFORE, THERE'S ANOTHER DIAGNOSE THAT'S MORE ACCURATE THAT'S UNDERUTILIZED IS COMPLEX PTSD.

IT'S CURRENTLY NOT LISTED UNDER THE DSM, BUT WE HAVE TO ADVOCATE FOR IT TO BE SO WE CAN CAPTURE THOSE WHO HAVE LIVED WITH A TRAUMATIC EXPERIENCE BUT MAY NOT HAVE MET THE FULL CRITERIA FOR PTSD.

FOR EXAMPLE, IF I LIVE IN A COMMUNITY WHERE I DON'T HAVE EMOTIONAL SUPPORT, I SEE DEATH, FOLKS MY AGE UNDER THE AGE OF 15 YEARS OLD I KNOW HAVE DIED BY VIOLENCE OR GUN VIOLENCE, THERE'S ASSAULTS.

SO WE KNOW THAT ALTHOUGH IN AFRICAN AMERICAN COMMUNITIES, WE MAY SEE HIGH RATES OF POVERTY, WHAT WE DON'T TALK ABOUT IS THAT ALSO AFRICAN AMERICAN YOUNG MEN WITH 16 TIMES MORE LIKELY TO BE VICTIMS OF VIOLENT CRIMES BEFORE THE AGE OF 16 YEARS OLD.

SO ROBBERY, ASSAULT, AND BECOMES NORMALIZED REGARDING THESE EXPERIENCES.

WHAT WE HAVE NOW IS WHERE DOES PROCESSING OF FEELING CONNECTED TO MY COMMUNITY, BEING ABLE TO FEEL LIKE I HAVE VALUE, I HAVE WORTH?

AND THEN WE BEGIN TO HAVE HOPELESSNESS.

THERE'S ECONOMIC INJUSTICE, ENVIRONMENTAL INJUSTICE, FOOD INJUSTICE THAT EXISTS.

YOU PUT ALL THAT TOGETHER AND TAKE A WINDOW INTO THE PSYCHOLOGY OF BELONGINGNESS, WHETHER IT'S IN MY COMMUNITY OR AMERICA.

THEN WE MOVE INTO THE PRISON SYSTEM WHERE THERE'S A 61 -- THERE'S BEEN A 61% INCREASE FROM 2001 TO 2018, AND DEATH BY SUICIDE WITHIN STATE AND FEDERAL PRISONS.

AND IN 2018 IT HIT THE HIGHEST UP OVER 1,120 INDIVIDUALS DIED BY SUICIDE IN PRISON.

AND THE QUESTION IS, HOW MUCH MENTAL HEALTH FOCUS ARE WE PLACING IN THE PRISON SYSTEM?

IF WE KNOW THAT THERE'S OVER 60% OF INDIVIDUALS THAT COME INTO FEDERAL PRISONS WITH A MENTAL HEALTH DIAGNOSIS ALREADY, THEN WHERE IS THE HELP FOR BEFORE AND AFTER?

BECAUSE THE BIGGEST RISK FACTOR DOESN'T JUST HAPPEN WITHIN PRISON, IT HAPPENS WHEN YOU COME HOME.

AND SMOKE MENTIONED THIS IN DETAIL.

YOU DON'T WANT TO BE AROUND PEOPLE.

THINGS CHANGE.

YOU BEGIN TO ASK YOURSELF HARD QUESTIONS LIKE, IS THIS THE SPACE FOR ME?

DO I FEEL LIKE I'M SUPPORTED AND PEOPLE ARE THERE FOR ME?

AS MENTIONED EARLIER, AM I BEING A BURDEN TO OTHER PEOPLE?

AND THAT'S NOT WHAT WE WANT TO MOVE AWAY FROM.

MR. THOMAS, I'M WONDERING FROM YOUR OWN PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WHEN YOU WERE RELEASED FINALLY, HOW DID YOU GO ABOUT FINDING THAT FEELING OF VALUE NOT JUST TO YOUR COMMUNITY BUT TO YOURSELF.

START IN THE PRISON.

LIKE I PREVIOUSLY SAID, THE THERAPEUTIC FIELD I HAVE BEEN DOING MAYBE 30 YEARS.

I WORK IN THE PRERELEASE AND WENT TO COMMUNITY PREP.

THEN FROM COMMUNITY PREP, IT TRANSITIONED TO SERVICE, WHICH IT IS NOW.

THREE STATES OF TRANSIT OF SERVICE PHASE, ONE, TWO, AND THREE.

THERE'S SO MUCH.

LIVING, MATERIAL, HOW TO NAVIGATE YOURSELF AROUND THE PRISON, THE DIFFERENT PROGRAMS AND DIFFERENT STUFF LIKE THAT.

BUT I WANT TO GO BACK TO SOMETHING THAT MR. RIOS SAID.

MM-HMM.

WHEN YOU LOCKED UP, RIGHT, YOU LOCKED UP, IT'S -- IT'S SO -- IT'S SO COMPLEX.

IT SEEMS EASY FOR YOU TO NAVIGATE YOURSELF AROUND IT, BUT WHAT PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW IS THAT PRISON IS 80% TO 90% MENTAL.

AND 15% TO 15% PHYSICAL.

YOU COULD BE THE LITTLEST GUY, 4'9', IF YOU GOT A BRAIN, YOU CAN MANIPULATE GUYS, NAVIGATE WHATEVER YOU WANT TO DO.

SO A LOT OF TIMES THAT'S WHY MENTAL HEALTH PLAY A PART.

I GOT RECOGNIZED BY HAVING DEPRESSION BY TWO PEOPLE.

ONE WAS A LIEUTENANT, AND SHE PUT IN THE REFERRAL, AND THEY TOOK ME OUT AND TOOK ME TO JOHN PELKY, UPSTATE NEW YORK, MALONE COUNTY.

THE SECOND TIME, WHICH WAS THE LAST TIME WAS MY COUNSELOR IN SING SING AT 2017, AND SHE PUT ME IN FOR A REFERRAL.

I ALWAYS WENT TO SEE AND TALK TO HER.

ONE OF THE THINGS THAT NEEDED TO BE DONE LIKE DR. RIOS SAID THAT AIN'T BEING DONE, THEY NEED PEOPLE THEY NEED THE MENTAL HEALTH STAFF TO GO IN THE MAX JAILS TO GO IN THE SELLS AND COMMUNICATE WITH INDIVIDUALS.

PUT IN REFERRALS EVERY MONTH FOR EVERYBODY TO GO AND SEE MENTAL HEALTH SO THEY CAN TALK TO THEM PRIVATELY.

THAT WILL COMBAT.

THAT WILL CLOSE SOME OF THE GAP.

BECAUSE WHAT THEY DO IS -- AND I DID 38 YEARS IN PRISON.

THEY WAIT FOR EITHER YOU TO DO SOMETHING, AND THEY SAY HE NEED A REFERRAL IN, OR FOR YOU TO SHOW EXTREME SIGNS.

SO THEY AIN'T REALLY DOING ENOUGH.

THEY CAN DO MORE.

BUT COMMUNICATION, IF THEY WAS TO HAVE A STAFF TO REALLY START DOING MORE EVALUATIONS EVERY MONTH WITH EVERYBODY LIKE THEY'RE SUPPOSED TO INSTEAD OF DOING PAPER WORK AND PUSH, IT ALL THROUGH, THAT WILL CHANGE SOME OF THE MENTAL HEALTH STUFF.

THIS IS JUST SUCH A COMPLEX ISSUE AND THERE ARE SO MANY LAYERS TO GET TO, BUT WE ARE COMING ON THE END AN OUR TIME TOGETHER.

WITH ABOUT TWO MINUTES LEFT, JAMES, I'M WONDERING, ONE OF THE OTHER THINGS WE DID LEARN IN THE FILM IS THERE IS OFTEN A GAP BETWEEN WHEN PEOPLE FIND THEMSELVES IN CRISIS AND WHEN THEY'RE ABLE TO RECEIVE HELP.

FIRST OF ALL, JUST YOUR TAKE ON JUST THE NATURE OF THAT GAP, AND IS THERE SOMETHING THAT, AGAIN, NONPROFESSIONALS CAN DO TO TRY TO ALLEVIATE SOME OF THE PAIN THAT INDIVIDUAL IS IN?

SURE.

ONCE YOU'VE IDENTIFIED SOMEONE YOU THINK IS AT RISK, THERE'S STUFF YOU REALLY HAVE TO DO.

FIRST OF ALL, DO NOT LEAVE THEM ALONE.

THAT'S THE MAIN THING.

DO NOT LEAVE THEM ALONE.

ESCORT THEM TO A SAFE PLACE, A HOSPITAL, EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT, A MENTAL HEALTH WORKER.

MAKE SURE THEIR ENVIRONMENT, BEFORE YOU EVEN DO THAT, IS SAFE.

THERE'S A PHRASE CALLED MEANS MATTER.

GET GUNS OUT OF THEIR ENVIRONMENT.

GUNS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR MORE SUICIDE DEATHS THAN ALL OTHER MEANS COMBINED.

YOU CAN TAKE GUNS OUT OF THE HOME, TAKE POISONS OUT OF THE HOME.

YOU CAN THEN CALL -- YOU MAY NEED TO CALL THE SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE AT 988 TO GET ADVICE.

DON'T LEAVE THEM ALONE.

TAKE THEM TO A MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL AND THEN SEE THEM THROUGH.

SEE THEM THROUGH THAT APPOINTMENT.

THEN THERE'S GOING TO BE -- THERE WILL BE A GAP BETWEEN THE -- BEFORE THEY START GETTING LONG-TERM CARE.

AND THERE'S SOMETHING CALLED THE SAFETY PLAN THAT WE SHOW IN THE FILM THE SAFETY PLAN GOES THROUGH A BUNCH OF STRATEGIES THE PERSON CAN TAKE IN ORDER TO DEVELOP RESILIENCE, TO GET THEMSELVES OUT OF A SUICIDAL IDEATION.

THE IMPULSE TO KILL YOURSELF DOESN'T LAST VERY LONG.

IF YOU CAN WRITE A LIST OF THINGS TO DO TO TAKE YOUR MIND OFF YOUR PROBLEMS YOU CAN SOMETIMES OUTWAIT THAT SUICIDAL IMPULSE, SO I URGE PEOPLE TO WATCH THE SHOW AND LEARN ABOUT THE SAFE PLAN.

THAT'S SOMETHING YOU ONLY GET ONCE YOU HAVE BEEN TO AN EMERGENCY ROOM AND HAD A SESSION WITH A MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL.

WELL, UNFORTUNATELY WE ARE GOING TO HAVE TO LEAVE IT THERE, BUT I'D LIKE TO THANK MY PANEL OF GUESTS FOR TONIGHT.

AWARD-WINNING FILMMAKER JAMES BARRETT, AGAIN, PRODUCER OF THE PBS DOCUMENTARY 'FACING SUICIDE'. STEVEN THOMAS, OR SMOKE AS HE'S KNOWN, WHO'S FEATURED IN LEARNING TO LIVE, DISCUSSING HIS LIVED SUICIDE EXPERIENCE WHILE INCARCERATED.

HE'S ALSO NOW THE COMMUNITY COORDINATOR FOR DRUM, WHICH WORKS TO IMPROVE BROOKLYN FOR ALL NEW YORKERS.

AND OF COURSE THANK YOU TO DR. JUAN RIOS, A LICENSED PSYCHOTHEIR MISS FEATURE IN THE 'LEARNING TO LIVE'. BE SURE TO VISIT US AT METROFOCUS.ORG FOR FACING SUICIDE AND LEARNING TO LIVE, THE RESILIENT PATH AFTER PRISON.

THANK YOU FOR JOINING US, AND GOOD NIGHT.

> IF YOU ARE THINKING ABOUT SUICIDE, OR IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS IN EMOTIONAL CRISIS, CALL OR TEXT 988 OR CHAT 988 LIFELINE.ORG ANY TIME FOR CONFIDENTIAL FREE CRISIS SUPPORT.

> 'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND, BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION.

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