I Choose Life
By Alan Hopgood
Suicide is the leading cause of death among young Australians. More than 350 young people aged 18 to 24 take their own lives every year — more than die on the roads. For every youth suicide, there are 100 to 200 more attempts. In many life challenges, young people need strong guidance from parents or carers and this is even more important when it comes to mental health. According to Black Dog Institute’s Dr Aliza Werner-Seidler, “Parents should not be afraid to use the word ‘suicide’ or use terms like ‘thoughts of death” or “being better off dead’ when talking to their child who they suspect is struggling with their mental health…There is no evidence to suggest that they will put the idea in their heads which is often a concern for parents. Research has shown that acknowledging and talking about suicide may in fact reduce, rather than increase, suicide risk.”
The film “I Choose Life” by Alan Hopgood was produced in order to create life-saving conversations. This resource guide has been written to accompany the viewing of the film to provide schools with practical ways to generate these important conversations.
“I Choose Life” by Alan Hopgood is intended to be shown to young people, years 9-12 and their parents/caregivers. It is hoped/designed that the film will promote a healthy discussion between young people and their parents/caregivers around themes of mental health and suicide. Most importantly, it is intended that following the film, young people and their families can be guided through a conversation about how they can best support each other to talk openly about their mental health and to consider the emotional climate within their homes that will promote help seeking and openness.
We recommend that this film is shown as part of a school-based mental health information evening called Creating Conversations “I choose life” a film by Alan Hopgood. Following a viewing of the film, we suggest assembling an expert panel of mental health clinicians to provide information and support (parentguides.com.au can provide guidance on this). The experts should have seen the film as well as the discussion questions that will be put to the audience.
Parents and carers should be encouraged to attend with students and should be informed that as part of the evening, they will be viewing a film that addresses themes of suicide, peer influence, bullying, parenting and adolescent mental health. Following the film, they will be guided through some discussion questions with their young person and the panel of experts.
Psychological Safety Considerations
Content Warning: Parents/Carers and young people need to be informed prior to the information evening that as part of the event, they will be viewing a film and engaging in a conversation that explores themes of suicide, peer influence, grief and loss, parenting, bullying and adolescent mental health. Individuals and families may find the content disturbing, especially those who are currently experiencing or who have previously experienced challenges with these themes. Individuals are encouraged to consider the appropriateness of the event for their family and reassured that wellbeing support will be provided at and following the event if any emotional difficulties arise.
Wellbeing Support: Wellbeing presence/support must be made available at the event. Wellbeing professionals are encouraged to be equipped with a list of external supports and a brief risk assessment questionnaire if required.
Psychological Safety Procedures: Emotional safety procedures must be discussed at the beginning of the night. We suggest that the following procedures are put in place:
- Wellbeing check in points: Wellbeing team members/professionals are positioned near venue exits and near restrooms. The audience is informed of these supports and their location.
- Responding to audience distress: Best-practice psychological safety protocols suggest that participants who are visibly upset should be discouraged from leaving the venue without checking in with a present mental health professional.
Audience members should be advised that if they feel upset/distressed and that they need a break/need to leave the room, that they are strongly encouraged to check in with a wellbeing team member/professional in the process.
To distinguish between audience members who require the restroom/need to leave the room for other reasons, individuals are encouraged to gesture to the present wellbeing clinicians if they require support. For example, a thumbs up, thumbs down may be agreed by the audience as a way to signal, “thumbs up – I’m ok just going to the restroom” or alternatively “thumbs down – I’m struggling and require a check in”.
Wellbeing Support and External Support: Parents/carers and young people are informed that if their participation in the evening raises any issues or concerns, that support will be made available through the wellbeing team at the end of the event and following the event. At the end of the event, a list of contact details for the wellbeing team and external supports should be made visible to audience members.
Students ‘at risk’: The wellbeing team are also encouraged to check in/follow up with young people who have been assessed or are known to be at risk of suicide within 12 months prior to the event or who appeared distressed during the event. A risk assessment/review may be required.