This ‘The Girl on the Bridge’ (M) is the recently released documentary film from New Zealand. It should not be confused with the 2018 short film about sex-trafficking, the 1999 French film, or indeed the 1951 film with the same title, even though they are both about suicide.
This documentary is a social impact film particularly focussed on educating people about teen suicide.
Directed by Leanne Pooley, a Canadian filmmaker based in New Zealand, the documentary follows suicide awareness and prevention advocate Jazz Thornton. Jazz is a suicide survivor and filmmaker herself, directing Jessica’s Tree, a web-based documentary (2019), about Jess, one who did not survive.
The Girl on the Bridge follows Jazz as she makes her film about Jess, highlighting Jazz’s wider role in pastoral contact and support, public speaking, and advocacy.
This is not a film focussing about the why of suicide or the increasing mental health issues developing, especially in the Western world. It is focussed on suicide as a public health matter, helping people to talk about suicide, and to seek and provide help.
The documentary is not in the category of the Christian film genre, though Jazz is known as a person of faith and has been very supported by her own church community.
The World Health Organisation estimates 800,000 people die each year by suicide, with about 32 million attempted suicides. In the world, suicide is the largest cause of death for the 15 to 29 age group.
Movies Change People are the distributor and facilitator of more than just this film, with the specific film websites providing a comprehensive range of information and links. At online screenings, all recipients are sent an email with help-seeking information. At physical cinema locations advice and help cards are made available.
The mindframe team
The Mindframe team (Australia) have provided a very helpful two-page guide for the mental health and suicide prevention sector in Australia (available on the Australia screening website). Organisations undertaking any cinema screenings have been advised to consider the following matters:
· Consider local community needs and circumstances
· Arrange for supports (such as counsellors) to be available to audiences pre- and post-screening (and identifying these persons to the audience)
· Provide a pre-event briefing to the audience (e.g. giving Australian/local context, discussing options for intervention training, warning signs, risk factors, protective factors etc.)
· Provide ‘take-home’ resources so audience members have help-seeking or local support information at hand.
As a supporter, mentor and the visible leader, Jazz is inspiring. Her experience and empathy shines through what could have been a very dark film. New Zealanders have had a wonderful opportunity to hear first-hand from Jazz, especially during these difficult and more travel-restricted days, but in the online community today, a world audience can connect with her through this film.
Jazz Thornton is involved with a wider coalition of people and co-founded Voices of Hope with Genevieve Mora. Voices of Hope is a charity that focusses on a wider range of mental health issues. This organisation has produced an excellent collection of resources, particularly short online video material that can be widely accessed.
When one considers suicide prevention, you may wonder what can I do as one person? Two simple things:
1. Become more aware of the real nature of suicide. Never say the person was, or is just, seeking attention.
2. Around the time of your National Suicide Prevention Day or the World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10), become involved. Attend a special service or event, include material and resources for help in your local church newsletter, website, and social media.
The Girl on the Bridge film website has an excellent link to helplines and resources.
World Listing of Countries - https://togetherweare-strong.tumblr.com/helpline
Peter Bentley is a Sydney (Australia) based writer and commentator on church, media and cultural issues. He is a former President of the Australasian Religious Press Association.