Cape Town - In recognition of Teen Suicide Prevention Week, a documentary film “Connecting the Dots” sheds light on the effect of the new digital age and promote more open discussions that might help suppress suicidal thoughts among young people.
With teens subjected to peer pressure in an online world, the documentary offers a no-frills, authentic look at the mental health of young people around the world, and showcases their voices and thoughts in order to let the viewer in on their experiences.
Driven by a fearless passion to tackle global issues, director Noemi Weis said reading about the alarming rates of increased youth anxiety, depression, and suicide, she knew the subject of youth mental health was one that had to be explored indepth.
“As a mother and a grandmother, my films have mainly dealt with social issues important to women and children, and this has been a driving force for me to bring these stories and struggles to light.
“I created what I call ’visual diaries’ offering young people from around the world the opportunity to share their most intimate and personal moments, as well as their call to action using their most precious belongings, their phones. Intercut with a highly cinematic and mise-en-scène approach, these visual diaries are the ’voice of reason’ that offer the viewer a global look at the situation of youth mental health that clearly has no borders.
“With beautiful images, poetry, preventative solutions, a strong call to action, and a message of hope, Connecting the Dots’ mission is to reveal what we can do as a society to change this trend while generating awareness, provoking changes, and most importantly, offering a voice to young people. I hope their stories will open minds and hearts, presenting a model for healing and inclusion globally. It is time for all of us to listen to and support them,” said Weis.
With suicide being common among young adults, Project Leader at SA Federation for Mental Health, Michel’le Donnelly, mentioned that as adolescence can be a time of change and uncertainty in a young person's life, mental disorders, in particular affective disorders (like depression), were a strong predictor of suicidal behaviour in young people.
“In 2020, 56% of the country's youth were unemployed, and researchers predicted that being unemployed increased the risk of suicide by 20–30%. In 2019, only three out of the nine provinces had child psychiatrists working in the public sector.
“During this time (like any other life stage), it is normal to feel sad, confused, unsure, and scared. However, when these feelings are persistent or compounded by severe adverse life events, it may be detrimental to a person’s mental wellbeing. This can progress into a mental health disorder. Mental disorders, in particular affective disorders (like depression), are a strong predictor of suicide behaviour in young people,” said Donnelly.
Rachelle Best, who is the founder of FYI Play It Safe, an online platform that helps monitor the content of children’s online communication and activity, said that having experienced a significant number of teenage suicides around Cape Town, the film stood out for her.
“I realised that we, as parents, don’t talk enough about youth mental health and we certainly don’t talk to our children about it enough. When I first watched the film, I could feel its effect on my skin. What stood out for me was a scene where a young girl said, "She retreated into her room more, because the people who she chatted to online understood her better than the people around her.
“This was the moment I realised that every parent and every child in South Africa should see this film, and that FYI Play It Safe can help! We should be part of this global conversation,” said Best.
Weis added that the mission of the film was to bring a sense of reflection and for people to take into consideration what the young people are saying.
“My wish, of course, is that the film will open the hearts of everyone. For me, the process has been extremely difficult because of the topic itself, but without judgement, I have been able to have each one of the participants open up their hearts to me, which I value very much,” said Weis.
Screenings of Connecting the Dots will take place at The Labia Theatre in Cape Town on February 22 at 10am and 6pm. For more information visit Webtickets.