SUICIDE: THE RIPPLE EFFECT — It’s Not Just A Movie. It’s A Life-Saving Movement.
Almost 1 million people worldwide have died as a result of suicide, with over 40,000 of those fatalities counted in the United States. In 2000, Kevin Hines nearly became the latest addition to those statistics. Only 19 years old and diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Hines tried to take his own life by jumping off San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. Were it not for the alert actions of now-retired U.S. Coast Guard officer Marcus Butler and trauma nurse Christy Frecceri, Hines’ story would have died with him.
After that incident, Hines would recount his experiences to millions of people whose lives have been altered by suicide through public speeches, one-on-one meetings with families and suicide survivors, TV talk show appearances, and a best-selling autobiography, Cracked, Not Broken: Surviving and Thriving After A Suicide Attempt. Hines’ story also reached over 110 million viewers on Buzzfeed Video.
In January of 2018, Hines appeared alongside infamous Youtube vlogger Logan Paul to discuss suicide prevention in a video called “Suicide: Be Here Tomorrow”. That video has racked up over 28 million views since its debut. At the 2018 Grammy Awards, Hines took the stage with several suicide survivors as acclaimed rap artist Logic performed his hit song “1–800–273–8255” (also the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline).
Now, Hines tells his story — and the stories of others touched by suicide — in the full-length documentary Suicide: The Ripple Effect, co-directed by Hines and Baton Rouge-based filmmaker Greg Dicharry.
In addition to numerous showings throughout the United States and overseas, Suicide: The Ripple Effect recently played at the Louisiana International Film Festival in Baton Rouge. Its web site offers a complete list of upcoming public screenings, plus valuable information on suicide prevention, and details on how people can organize screenings of Suicide: The Ripple Effect in their hometowns.
Most people associate the tragedy of suicide with celebrities — Prince, Kurt Cobain, Robin Williams, Amy Winehouse, among others. However, suicide also affects everyday people who’ve felt like there is no way for them to overcome the difficulties of life. The impact it has on their families and friends is devastating. Equally devastating are their shared feelings of not having done enough to save their loved ones.
While those effects have been examined in sobering detail across several documentaries and fiction-based films, Suicide: The Ripple Effect shows how it’s possible for something good to come out of the traumatic experience of suicide.
“We didn’t want to make a sad and somber film. That’s not who Kevin is. Kevin’s story is really hopeful in its message,” Dicharry responds. “We feel that people who’ve been touched by suicide needed to be uplifted and to not have a downer thing. You don’t reach as many people because they don’t want to watch a downer film.”
The stories that DiCharry and Hines’ documentary capture are examples of that axiom, as is the very name of their project. “One of the things with the title of the movie early on was that it was natural to see the negative ripple effects that happen with suicide,” says Dicharry. “There are studies out there that say after with every death by suicide, 115 people are directly affected. That’s huge, but we wanted to focus more on the positive ripple effects of hope that come out of that.”
Among those impacted by Hines’ story are the people who worked to save his life. “One of the people we interviewed for the film was a trauma nurse (Frecceri), who was the nurse when Kevin came into the hospital,” says Dicharry. “We interviewed her, and we learned the impact that he’s had on her and his story, and how she uses that story to train other nurses. There’s the Coast Guard guy, Marcus Butler, who helped rescue Kevin, and the impact he’s had. Then, there are just people who meet him. It’s pretty remarkable.”
Inspired by Hines’ story and his work, people throughout the world have followed in his footsteps. Hines and Dicharry met some of them in their trip to the Land Down Under, which is presented in their film. “There’s a young guy in the film from Australia, Sam Webb, who’s an actor. He lost his best friend to suicide. He and his buddy started up a charity called LIVIN to draw attention to the issue,” Dicharry remembers.
“…There was the brother and the mother of someone who died by suicide. He’s a speaker, like Kevin, and the mother wrote a book. Another girl who works with us now lost her brother to suicide. She’s determined. Another guy, Joe Williams, was a former rugby player and boxer. He attempted suicide, and now he’s using his experience to help others.”
For families who’ve lost a loved one due to suicide, coping with the devastation of that loss is made harder by their inevitable feelings of guilt. Hines’ efforts to help those families are seen up-close in Suicide: The Ripple Effect.
“(It’s great) to see the kind of impact that he has in helping families understand a little bit better or get a little bit more peace,” Dicharry adds. “He can give them a little bit better understanding that it really wasn’t their fault. He gives them a little more understanding of the reasoning or circumstances behind it.”
Dicharry also describes how even the short trailer for Suicide: The Ripple Effect has already helped to save lives. “A kid wrote in from Australia. He said he was standing on top of a bridge and was just waiting for that right moment to jump. He scrolled through his phone and he saw the video. He watched it, and when it was over, he called his parents and his friend and got help. Those kinds of things happened repeatedly, numerous times. That’s the really cool thing.”
Social media, particularly the film’s Facebook page, is a significant extension of Dicharry and Hines’ outreach. “When we first started, we started what was called the ‘Suicide: The Ripple Effect Challenge’,” Dicharry explains. “We had a number of people doing it early on. We’ve had a few lately, but we’ve encouraged people to share their stories of how they were personally impacted by suicide in a short video. We’d post it on our page. There’s a few of those that were submissions that were actually in the film. We’re hoping that when the film starts, people will do more of those. If they’re not comfortable doing a video, they can write something, do a picture, a poem or things like that.”
Like that of Hines, Dicharry’s story of survival is especially remarkable. A graduate of Arizona State University, Dicharry started his filmmaking career in the glamorous yet tempting atmosphere of Los Angeles. Beginning in the mid ’90s, he worked on several music video and TV commercials, plus a low-budget feature film. However, Dicharry struggled to cope with the constant uncertainty of when his next job would come along. For him, drugs were the only way to deal with the difficulties of that situation.
After taking an additional job as a part-time nanny, Dicharry’s work in the film and TV production industry would increase. Having begun collecting stories for the pilot episode of a youth-oriented 60 Minutes-style newsmagazine called Generation Y, Dicharry spent considerable time with the youth of a Venice Beach-based ministry, Set Free. Meanwhile, Dicharry also worked on the crew of MTV’s celebrity-filled Rock & Jock Softball game.
While the work picked up for Dicharry, so did the long hours he spent on both projects. Worse, so did his substance abuse. Boosted by the exciting nature of his work, and by the dangerous power of the drugs he consumed, Dicharry rarely slept. He practically neglected his then-girlfriend. Following a heated argument between them, Dicharry had an experience that initially seemed like a profound epiphany.
“We had a little balcony off our kitchen, and another balcony off our living room. I was tired and pretty buzzed, but I got locked out off the smaller balcony off our kitchen,” he recalls. “Rather than bang on the door and wake up my girlfriend, I just laid down on the ground and went to sleep. At some point later, I was startled awake. I don’t know how to completely describe it, but it was like a voice or vision came to me. ‘If you give it all away, it’ll come back to you a million fold’.”
The next morning, Dicharry began to do just that. “I started giving away more and more. it was kind of like, ‘you’ve given me everything. I’ve given you your clothes.’ I took off all my clothes. I wasn’t on any drugs, but it was like I was. I ended up getting in the middle of the street. It was rush hour traffic. People were honking their horns, but it sounded like music. I was dancing. I came around the corner.”
Believing that he was somehow under the influence of a higher power, Dicharry had no idea he was in danger. The policemen who saw him prancing amid Venice Beach’s traffic, however, had a hunch that he was. “There was this group of cops,” Dicharry says. “They were laughing at me. I said, ‘I’m going to see the Lord.’ They said, ‘where’s the Lord?’ I said, ‘in Long Beach.’ They took me to jail where I stayed for a day, and they ended up letting me go.”
For three weeks, Dicharry would be committed to the psychiatric ward at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. During that time, he found out the real reason behind his supposedly spiritual behavior: “They told me that I was bipolar and needed to take these meds and that if I didn’t quit doing drugs and alcohol, I’d keep ending up in places like that,” he remembers. “That was kind of the start of it. Smoking a lot of marijuana definitely had a factor in it.”
Dicharry’s first manic episode would only be the beginning of several incidents induced by work and insomnia. “A number of my episodes after that revolved around working on film projects. It would be kind of the same scenario. I’d be really jazzed up and excited,” he explains. “I wouldn’t sleep and wouldn’t sleep less, and would start getting delusional. When you’re sleep deprived and you start getting a little loopy, it’s kind of like that. It took me quite a while to accept that.”
Those mood swings persisted, as did Dicharry’s reluctance to come to terms with his mental illness. ”What I had experienced with the mental health stuff was that I knew it sounded crazy to people, but nonetheless it was very real to me. It was difficult for people to tell me that it was a disorder because it was so real to me.”
Equally strong was Dicharry’s misguided belief that he could keep smoking marijuana. “I had done a variety of drugs, like a lot of cocaine over the years, but the marijuana was the one thing I thought I could never quit.”
More episodes would follow, as would more stays in psychiatric hospitals (over 12, according to Dicharry). After moving to Arizona, Dicharry thought that his life was getting back on track. He had a new job, and a new apartment. Yet, he still had his demons. Having suffered another breakdown, Dicharry returned from his latest involuntary hospital stay in desperate shape. Soon, he pleaded for a sign from above.
“They’re about to evict me. My apartment’s psychotically painted. I lost my job. I fell to my knees, saying ‘God, please help me.’ What became crystal clear was that similar kind of voice, very real-sounding or just that whole feeling was ‘help yourself’,” describes Dicharry. “At that time, I just chuckled. It showed me that something was there, but it also just registered because I had not been willing to help myself on a consistent basis for so long.”
With his filmmaking career postponed, Dicharry focused on rebuilding his life through a special peer support program designed to help those suffering from mental illness transition into the work force.
“You could go through this training and maybe get a job,” he says. “I was just going to think it was to do a part time job to supplement my social security. I went through this training program, and I ended up being hired to this agency to do a training program help people get jobs and keep jobs.”
After overseeing that program for several years, Dicharry would later join health care firm Magellan Health in a newly created position: that of its national youth empowerment director. Dicharry saw it as the perfect opportunity to blend his personal work experience with the mentally ill with his skills in filmmaking.
“Around that time, I got a video camera again and I started filming a lot of things with the youth. They did a lot of presentations and events,” Dicharry replies. “In 2010, I was able to edit together this short 5-minute video of the youth program. Then, I was able to do some PSA’s for work. Things kind of started melding a little bit. I did little projects over the years.”
Dicharry would soon meet Hines, who was actively working on a project of his own. “It was Kevin’s idea to do a documentary, and to do (Suicide: The Ripple Effect). He had been working with another guy for a little while. Initially, it was us three. The guy had sort of fallen off, and together we crafted the different story, elements and ideas. It was amazing working with him, and seeing the kind of impact he has on people.”
Hines would, in turn, have a significant impact on Dicharry; something he experienced first-hand while working alongside Hines on the film. “He’s on the road constantly giving speeches, and on top of that, he’s out there helping people one-on-one who get connected with him, call him, and reach out to him,” Dicharry notes. “It definitely was inspiring and really cool to meet the people that were involved in the scenario, and seeing how much they’ve been impacted by his story, and where he’s at now.”
Working with Hines on Suicide: The Ripple Effect hasn’t just been a mere collaboration for Dicharry. He feels that it’s just one more step in his own life-changing journey.
“My film career was something I had always dreamed of since I was a little kid. I was very confident that I would be successful at it,” explains DiCharry. “It (filmmaking) was ripped from me, not that I was super successful or anything, but that whole field was pulled from me largely by my own doing. Nonetheless, that loss was a grieving process. Getting back to doing an actual full feature film that’s going to be seen by people is pretty cool.”
Some people say that movies have changed their lives. Others say that movies have saved their lives. As Dicharry and Hines see it, Suicide: The Ripple Effect is the rare film that does both. “The ultimate goal is to reach as many people as possible, and to help build a movement of hope and healing. It’s not just a film. It’s a film and a movement. That’s really the thing,” Dicharry says, adding that Suicide: The Ripple Effect is only the beginning of that movement.
“We (Dicharry, Hines and the filmmakers) are reaching the people who are in need, or who might be in crisis, or who might be on the verge of suicide. We also want to reach the family members and loved ones, so that parents, teachers and people know what signs to look out for, what questions to ask, and how to help people get help. If we can tell a story and have it be entertaining, but also have it save lives, that’s pretty cool.”
The official trailer for Suicide: The Ripple Effect can be seen here:
Suicide: The Ripple Effect’s web site offers important contact information for worldwide organizations dedicated to preventing suicide, including for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Visit this link for details:
Home HOST A Screening BUY TICKETS Calendar USA Screenings International Screenings Host A Screening Resources for Hosts…
For more information about Suicide: The Ripple Effect, including about how you can host a screening of the film in your community, visit the film’s web site: