Film challenges taboo on suicide

Taylor Harrison

The WKU Counseling and Testing Center is bringing an event to campus this Thursday to encourage students not to be afraid to talk about suicide.

The center is hosting a visit from director Mike Stutz, who will screen his film “Don’t Change the Subject,” which examines his mother’s suicide.

Stutz will hold a question-and-answer session after the screening.

Karl Laves, assistant director for the center, said the film is very real and personal and relies heavily on art.

“In dealing with his mother’s suicide, what he experienced personally was that nobody wanted to talk about it, but it was happening all around,” Laves said.

Because Stutz is from Los Angeles and part of the acting community, he was able to recruit artists such as musicians, dancers, comedians and actors for the film.

“So the film itself is a series of installments, or acts where different aspects or topics of suicide are being portrayed by these actors,” Laves said.

Laves said the film also uses dark humor to address the topic and it’s not set up as a documentary.

“It’s not a dry, boring, educational presentation on suicide,” Laves said.

While Stutz talks about his experience with his mother, Laves said the film is about surviving suicide in general.

“Throughout the movie, he is using his own mother’s suicide, but other people are using their own experiences with suicide or surviving suicide,” Laves said.

Betsy Pierce, a staff psychologist at the Counseling and Testing Center, said college-aged students are one of the groups of concern when it comes to suicide. Pierce said it is an important topic to address.

“We kind of need to bring suicide out of the realm of being a taboo,” Pierce said. “We just don’t talk about suicide, you know. If we start talking about it, we can prevent more of it.”

She said many people avoid talking about suicide because it’s uncomfortable or it scares them.

Stutz has spoken at WKU before, Pierce said. She enjoyed his presentation last time.

“I thought he had a distinct approach,” Pierce said. “He’s definitely not afraid of the topic, he doesn’t tiptoe around it which is why, you know, he’s very passionate about what he does. He’s saying, ‘Let’s quit acting like this doesn’t exist or will go away.’”

Brian Van Brunt, director of the Counseling and Testing Center, said suicide is definitely relevant to college students, including those here at WKU.

“Suicide is something that we deal with on a daily basis,” Van Brunt said.

The center will be co-sponsoring another upcoming event that talks about controversial issues, when the founder of comes to campus.

Postsecret is a website on which people can anonymously send in their secrets, some of which can be shocking. Van Brunt said this is another way to get students engaged in controversial topics.