Review: “Not Alone: A film about teen suicide and depression”


I found this documentary on Netflix randomly but found it profoundly inspiring.  Here is the back story: This documentary is lead by Jacqueline Monetta, who initially shares her story about the tragic and unexpected loss of her best friend to suicide.  She shares that she engaged in her own self-reflection.  She described, in her own experiences, the stages of grief: denial, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance.  And she began her journey to give other youth who have struggled with depression, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts a voice to share their stories of pain and resiliency.  The documentary captures Jacqueline interviewing survivors of past suicidality and depression, who share their diverse stories of loss, trauma, guilt, self-hatred and shame.  She also focuses on ways that these beautiful individuals found their strength and their hope.

I have worked with youth for several years as a Youth and Family Counsellor for a non-profit organization and currently provide similar support services in my private practice as a Registered Social Worker.  The stories that were shared in this documentary resonated with me deeply.  They were stories that I have heard in my sessions from other strong souls and brought to light the themes and patterns that serve to help, as well as, hinder healing and recovery, including feelings of loneliness, the impact of social media, and the pressures of social hierarchies.  While I watched each individual share their unique story, I grew increasingly impressed with their courage to discuss something so personal and so uncomfortable on camera.  Although each of their stories were different, they all talked about pain and hopelessness.  They shared the impact of social pressures that consumed them and influenced their thoughts and feelings.

I understand that some may feel confused or find it difficult to understand the occurrence of suicidal thoughts among young people.  But what I have learned from those who have been brave enough to share their stories with me and those who participated in this documentary, is that in a time of desperation, helplessness, and hopelessness, taking their own life becomes an option.  To end the pain and to free them from the thoughts that immobilize them.  But one thing I do believe is that the word “option” is the opposite notion of having no choice.  An option means that there are other “options” out there as well.  And these young people explored those options, whether it be talking to friends or family, participating in therapy, engaging in physical activity, or finding passion in something that they love to do.

One theme that seemed to present itself regularly was the fear of talking about their feelings because of the general discomfort of the topic.  This is such a powerful message.  We should not feel uncomfortable sharing how we feel, whether it be negative or positive.  Because no matter how “unacceptable” it is to talk about feelings of sadness, loneliness, and pain, they will occur anyways.  So, if you are a family member, a friend, a teacher, or anyone else in the life of someone who may be struggling, talk about it. Or give them an open to door to talk about it when want to.  Talk about it without judgment, without solutions, without minimization.  Listen to them, validate their feelings, reassure them that you care about them, even when they don’t believe you at that time.  Acknowledgement does not have to mean understanding.  We may still not understand why they feel the way that we do, but we can hear their words and tell them what we hear.  We can agree with them that, sometimes, life will suck.  We can ask them what they need.  And, if we are brave enough to do so, we can be transparent enough to tell them that we don’t know what to say or we can’t imagine how they are feeling.  We can recognize their perseverance to get out of bed every morning and face the day even though they really don’t want to.  We can congratulate them for finding whatever motivation they have to live one more day despite their desire to not live anymore.  We can tell them what we admire about them.

I want to congratulate all of the young people who were involved in this project. It encourages a dialogue that is so important.  When we build a culture of acceptance of the topic of suicide, it will no longer be uncomfortable to talk about it.  It will become a safe topic.  And the shame of these feelings may be lessened.  I recommend it to anyone who wishes to learn about the strength that comes out of vulnerability, the acceptance that come out of challenges, and the notion that whether or not we talk about it, many of our young people are experiencing thoughts of suicide.  And they our need love, patience and support.  And in times of tragedy, we need to support one another and know we did the best we could.


Helpful Sites and Phone Numbers:

Kids Help Line: 1-800-668-6868

Ontario Association of Suicide Prevention:

Mental Health Helpline: 1-866-531-2600

Good 2 Talk: 1-866-925-5454

Mind Your Mind:


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