The filmmaker portrays a Baypath student in ‘My Suicide Story’

LONGMEADOW – Alexandra Perkins sits in the woods near Bay Path University with the wind blowing. She speaks in broken sentences, pausing and then hurrying through the rest of the words. Her gaze wanders into the woods as she candidly tells the story of the time she nearly died there.

Perkins is the subject of filmmaker Joe Massa’s fourth installment of “My Suicide Story,” a series of YouTube interviews with people who have survived suicide attempts. Massa was inspired to make the series’ first video when his close friend, Kenny Serrano, revealed he had attempted suicide.

“[Serrano]He’s someone who is so physically intimidating,” Massa said, shocked that his friend “might have a moment of weakness.”

Massa had experience directing short action films in high school and college and had previously worked with his brother on a suicide fiction film called “Pressure”. Using his background, Massa sat down with Serrano and asked him about his experience on camera.

At the end of the video. Massa included an email address for anyone who “would like to tell your story.” After he uploaded the video to YouTube in July 2018, people across the country started contacting him asking if they could share their experiences.

Massa, who lives in West Haven, CT., filmed the stories of people in Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts. The films follow a simple format in which the subject tells the audience about their history and background and what led them to attempt suicide. The descriptions of their experiences are graphic.

There has been controversy regarding “suicidal contagion”, the idea that discussing suicide can make it glamorous and lead to an increased risk of “copycat suicides”. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that “direct and indirect exposure to suicidal behavior has been shown to precede increased suicidal behavior in people at risk for suicide, particularly in adolescents and young people. adults”.

Although Massa said he hadn’t thought of it, he shows the next trigger warning on screen for 10-15 seconds before each person’s story.

“Warning: My Suicide Story is a tool for survivors of a suicide attempt to share their stories. This material may contain triggers for those affected by suicidal thoughts/tendencies. Episodes may depict graphic material and may contain explicit language.

Massa filmed the Perkins story in May this year. Of the five videos in the series, her story received the most views, 2,300 views. And people reacted to his story.

“She paints a picture with her words,” Massa said of the student. He said people reacted to her story because she was “very candid, very raw” in her interview.

This cruelty took its toll on Massa.

With the exception of Serrano, Massa said, “Every time I film someone, I take a bit of their story with me and it stays with me.” Filming Perkins affected him deeply. “After the Alexandra story, it kind of did something to me, internally,” Massa said.

“I have to be honest, I don’t know if I can continue this, absorb this pain,” Massa said, but he wants to keep telling people’s stories because he hopes the outlet he provides can help people. people at risk.

Mentalhealth.gov lists the following as warning signs of suicide:

• Talking about wanting to die or committing suicide

• Looking for a way to commit suicide

• Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live

• Talk about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain

• Talking about being a burden to others

• Increase the consumption of alcohol or drugs

• Acting anxious or agitated; behave recklessly

• Sleeping too little or too much

• Withdrawing or feeling isolated

• Showing rage or talking about wanting revenge

• Display of extreme mood swings

If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Trained emergency responders are available to speak 24/7. If you think someone is in immediate danger, don’t leave them alone – stay there and call 911.