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'Wake Up' Film Takes On The Scourge Of Suicide

Hours after being denied admittance at a hospital for his suicidal thoughts, Ryan Candice feels he's exhausted his options. Played by Ethan Olson.
Kyle Krupinski
Hours after being denied admittance at a hospital for his suicidal thoughts, Ryan Candice feels he's exhausted his options. Played by Ethan Olson.

Nearly 800,000 people in the world die by suicide each year. And 2020 has so far proven to be a tougher year than others, with economic upheaval and civil unrest. All of that can take a huge toll on mental health. When it comes to the coronavirus pandemic, psychiatrists can’t yet predict its immediate effect, but some experts say its impact on mental health will show up in the nation’s suicide rate, in this and coming years.

Alex Lindley and Danny Kerth are among the St. Louisans affected by suicide; they’ve each lost friends and family to it, including their mutual friend Ryan Candice. 

“Ryan didn’t want to die. Ryan went to a hospital and told somebody, ‘I want to kill myself.’ They asked him, ‘Do you have a plan?’And he said ‘no,’ so he didn’t meet their level of screening,” Kerth explained. “To me [the problem] is the fact that Ryan reached out but wasn’t able to get access.”

After Candice’s death in 2014, Lindley and Kerth started Project Wake Up — a nonprofit organization working to destigmatize mental illness and suicide, as well as raise awareness about providing adequate access to mental health care throughout the country.

That organization became the catalyst for raising more than $600,000 to develop “Wake Up,” directed by St. Louis filmmaker Nate Townsend. The feature-length documentary highlights the voices of people from various walks of life along their mental health journeys. Members of the LGBTQ community and the veteran community as well as college students and those in rural communities all share their personal perspectives in the film.

Earlier this month, the film screened as part of the We Are One: A Global Film Festival, a digital event coordinated by YouTube, Tribeca Enterprises and 20 prestigious international film festivals. It runs through this Friday.

Kerth serves as the vice president ofProject Wake Up and the film’s executive producer. He describes the global film festival as “the biggest day in our nonprofit’s short history.” Kerth joined host Sarah Fenske on Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air to talk about the film’s future and how it aims to spread awareness about various ways to seek help, including via telehealth care. 

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline offers assistance for people and loved ones in distress. That number is 1-800-273-8255. 

Listen to the full conversation: 

Related Event

What: Wake Up: Stories From the Frontlines of Suicide Prevention
When: Through Friday, June 12
Where: YouTube’s We Are One: A Global Film Festival

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Lara is the Engagement Editor at St. Louis Public Radio.