It has only been in recent years that conversations regarding suicide have escaped their blankets of taboo and engagement. As the world of mental health is opening up, and becoming more popular in the workplace, there is a wealth of opportunity in how it is conveyed. How are the wellness journeys of mental health and stability, being depicted? How are they becoming more popular, and comfortable? Inviting others to speak upon a scary reality in the mental wellness movement. Its that dirty S word. If you are thinking, suicide, you are part of the awareness in liberating the conversation.
Suicide is a form of emotional imbalance. It means that one’s humanity has somehow been devalued. An individual has not been able to comprehend their value and purpose for humanity. How does one belong? Is a person a valuable contributor to this wonder, called, LIFE? These are some of the questions, crossing the conscious and psyche of any person, who is considering, and planning, suicide.
Many times, people who choose to take this road, are deemed as selfish. Written off, and dismissed, as losers, who failed in life’s journey. Sometimes they leave notes. Other times they simply leave, themselves. “Selfish,” they say. So many people have their own interpretations about those, who were neglected. “They didn’t think about the loved ones left, behind.” “They were selfish.” Yet, maybe, just maybe, they were thinking about, us. Maybe they felt useless to the very existence of their loved ones. That somehow, others, would be “better off” without them. Perhaps, just perhaps, they may have been. . .thinking.
When artists, and members of the creative arts, do stories about wellness and suicide, a therapy is taking place. It means that the fear of being exposed is ending. The masks are coming off. Hiding under success and strength is no more, and reality is revealed. People are telling their truths, and words are becoming, REAL! Two, creative minds, through a brotherly persuasion, have taken on the challenge of getting those “thinkers,” to share their struggles and battles with suicide. From a New York Times Best-selling author, to friends, and everyday people, suicide is owned by no particular demographic. In its world, everyone is game! And, so in grappling through this important work of getting survivors to tell their stories, two brothers-actors and filmmakers-have teamed up to create an important series of hope. One that can inspire others in using their words for truth. Conveying their personal, suicide stories (and testimonies) and letting the world know, that its normal, to proclaim, when you’re not always, OK! And, that’s, OK!
Creating the aesthetics of storytelling on the very nature of suicide, I interview two brothers, and members of the film and acting worlds, on their journey in creating the My Suicide Story series! Taking us on this journey is none other than. . .
CHRISTIAN and JOE MASSA
Lauren K. Clark: What compelled you to do a series of episodes, which focuses on suicide?
Christian Massa: Back in 2016, my brother and I created a short film, called Pressure, which was dedicated to those suffering from suicidal thoughts and depression. Shortly after this premiered, my brother created My Suicide Story, to continue helping those suffering.
Joe Massa: The series was actually, unintentionally, created. I was having a conversation with one of my closest friends, Kenny-who is featured in Episode 1-and he revealed to me that he had attempted to take his life, almost a decade earlier. It shocked me that I never knew this, and I suggested that we shoot his story; and share it in an attempt to help spread awareness about some of the potential signs and symptoms, that someone suffering from suicidal thoughts might be facing.
After uploading Kenny’s story to YouTube, dozens of people began to reach out, praising his story; many of whom requested to share their stories in future episodes. It was at this moment, that I realized I might have a unique opportunity, to spread awareness and even save lives, by continuing to share these stories. So, I decided to continue shooting, and that’s how the series came to be.
Lauren K. Clark: As actors, creative directors, and filmmakers, have your experienced your own battles of depression? If so, what were those experiences? How did they feel?
Joe Massa: Anxiety (and depression) is something that I think everyone experiences, at some point in their lives. For me, personally, I have struggled with anxiety, since I was a child, and there were times, when it was really tough for me-especially, during my teen years.
Christian Massa: I personally do not suffer from depression. However, I think everybody will feel the effects of some sort of depression at some point in their life-whether its work-related, mourning the loss of a loved one, or even your first heartbreak.
I’ve always said you can tell a lot about a person, by the color clothes they wear. For instance, someone who wears bright colors might be happier than someone who wears dark colors. In my opinion, bright colors represent happy thoughts and dark colors represent dark thoughts.
Lauren K. Clark: In Episode 4 of Alexandria’s story, we are presented with the world of art, and it serving as a healer for depression. Alexandria states ” my favorite form of therapy is art therapy, and it drives my passion for psychology. I want to be an art therapist, so I can help people, who struggle with issues like I have. To help them realize that there are other outlets to be able to channel those emotions. You’re given a blank canvas. You can put anything on it. There’s no judgement. Everybody is an artist. There is no such thing as bad art. And, the whole purpose of art is to discover more about yourself.” In your personal journeys, how have you explored the world of visual artistry, as an avenue for emotional and spiritual healing.
Joe Massa: For me, film and movies have always been my therapy–my personal escape from reality. Getting lost in a good movie with good characters always made me feel happy. Being able to relate to a well-written character in film or show is therapeutic in the sense that you know the character is fictional, but the same time, you know someone wrote that character most likely, from personal experiences. So, while you are technically relating to a fictional character, you’re really relating to the writer’s experiences in real life, and suddenly, you know you aren’t the only that feels a certain way.
Lauren K. Clark: In the worlds of acting and theater, who have been some of your most intense characters? Have you ever seen traces of your own character in them? How did they help you learn about yourself?
Christian Massa: As an actor, I’ve always looked up to Leonardo DiCaprio. The range of movies he can play is absolutely amazing! From playing someone suffering from mental illness to playing a huge entrepreneur. I can definitely see a lot of the same traits in each other.
Joe Massa: In 2016, my brother Christian and I co-wrote, directed, and starred in a silent short film about a man burdened by suicide. In the film, I played the role of “suicide,” which we visually depicted as a dark-cloaked figure, who followed around Christian’s character everywhere he went; relentlessly offering him ways to take his life. Playing his character was definitely one of the most intense characters that I have every played, and it helped me learn a lot about myself; as I had to do a lot of research on the topic of suicidal ideations-thinking about or planning suicide. This really made me aware of the daily struggles, that those suffering from these thoughts are plagued by, and has changed my entire outlook on suicide, in general.
Lauren K. Clark: The world of theater can be an avenue of spiritual and mental cleansing. Somehow, it is connected to the Universe, and gives us a glimpse into our own mental health journeys. What have been some of your own poignant memories on the stage or screen? How did it liberate you, emotionally?
Christian Massa: In 2016, I played the role of a man burdened by suicidal thoughts and depression in the short film, Pressure. In the film I was battling thoughts about suicide and depression. In the end, I beat this illness and took my life back. Playing a role like this can truly make you see and feel what somebody suffering from this mental illness is going through.
Lauren K. Clark: In My Suicide Story, what were some of the challenges that you faced in creating this documentary series?
Christian Massa: When my brother Joe created this documentary series, I knew he was up against potentially emotional challenges. Filming people with real life, emotional struggles can take a lot of you; not only physically, but mentally and emotionally. Being the assistant director on this project, I get to see, firsthand, how people are dealing with these illnesses, and I’m honored to assist my brother in this project.
Lauren K. Clark: Which of the interviewees in My Suicide Story, has impacted you, the most? In what way, did this occur?
Joe Massa: Alexandra’s Story (Episode 4) definitely had the most impact on me, emotionally-meeting her had a lasting effect on me, that I don’t think will ever dissipate. I think her story affected me in a different way than the other stories did because she made me feel the hopelessness, that she felt when she concocted and consumed a toxic solution of bleach, aspirin, and psychiatric medications. She was also dropped by her school-appointed therapist, and was in the process of being expelled after her suicide attempt because she was deemed a liability by the school. All of this took an emotional toll on me and absorbing her pain; although indirectly, made me consider stopping the series.
Christian Massa: The first episode of My Suicide Story, impacted me the most. Kenny has been my brother’s friend for a long time, and he introduced him to me a few years ago. To hear and see somebody as close as Kenny suffering from something as dark as suicide is terrible, and it continues this journey.
Lauren K. Clark: In the building of this series, what kind of people do you hope to attract? Specifically, do you hope to interview more people from the creative arts, performing arts, and even business worlds?
Christian Massa: Continuing this series, we hope to attract anybody, who needs to share their story with the world. We aren’t trying to attract anybody, specifically, but we do hope to continue to film individuals, who would like to share the story, in hopes to to help somebody else struggling with the same issues.
Joe Massa: I hope to attract anyone who attempted to take their life, survived, and is willing to to share their story on camera to help deter others from making the same mistake.
Lauren K. Clark: What is it about the creative types do you feel brings a more nutritious, and healing vibe, to the world of mental health and wellness?
Christian Massa: I think people who are more creative bring a very unique approach to helping others, whether its by sharing art, film, pictures, etc. Creative people, who also suffer from mental illness, that can channel their thoughts into art, can really show others suffering, that it’ll be ok.
Lauren K. Clark: Imagine yourself being on a sacred paradise. You are laying in the Earth’s soils. You are protected and shielded. Furthermore, you feel that you are free from all of life’s worries. Describe this experience. How do you feel? What colors and designs do you see? What scents do you smell? What textures do you feel?
Christian Massa: Safe, unbothered, and calm.
Joe Massa: For me, nature is the most soothing element. If I were to imagine this situation, I would be looking at a star-filled sky under the canopy of lots of trees, on a warm, rainy day. I smell the Earth-rain and mud-and I feel the security of the ground, below me.
Lauren K. Clark: In having people convey to you their personal suicide journeys, and stories, how is this creating a form of spiritual and mental nudity? A way where people remove all masks, expose their wounds, and allow healing to take place.
Joe Massa: I feel that in order to sit in front of a camera, and a stranger, and share such an intimate event from your past, requires a level of transparency, that most people do not possess. Although these survivors attempted to take their lives in the past, I believe they came out of the other side much humbler, and more willing to sacrifice their own privacy and level of comfort to help others because they know how suffering feels. I also feel that helping others contributes to their own personal healing.
Christian Massa: I think when we film these individuals, they really have to put their full trust in us. To share such a dark moment of their life, brings out their true emotions.
Lauren K. Clark: Initially, did you have any reservations, or fears, in making this documentary series? If so, what were they, and please explain.
Christian Massa: After writing and acting in Pressure, alongside my brother, in 2016, it lead into Joe creating, My Suicide Story. I remember him saying he was worried about how people would react to such a dark and personal documentary.
Joe Massa: I was a bit hesitant when I first learned about “triggers” and how any mention of the word suicide or recollection of related events could trigger these thoughts in those who suffer from them. I brought my concerns to the attention of a couple of mental health professionals, that I reached out to, and felt comfortable moving forward, after they recommended putting a “trigger warning” in place for 10-seconds before the start of each episode.
Lauren K. Clark: As actors, directors, and film creators, how do you see problems of mental health within this industry? How do you think the theater and film worlds can get more involved in ensuring that the mental health of its creatives is cherished and supported?
Christian Massa: I think mental health, geared towards suicide and depression, hasn’t really been shown on a big level, yet, in the film industry. I think if we can get this documentary series on a platform, such as Netflix or Hulu, then it will really be able to help its viewers, who are suffering.
Joe Massa: I think that depression and suicide see no boundaries. They affect celebrities just as much as they affect the average person. I believe that we are moving in the right direction, in terms of awareness, as I have begun to see more and more celebrities advocating for mental health awareness in recent years; and if we continue on that path, awareness will become more and more important.
In speaking battles with suicide, one becomes liberated. There is freedom in truth! A release of toxins and energetic abnormalities, plaguing the body. Through the work of Christian and Joe Massa, others are invited to take part in that freedom. The shame game is over! Now, it is becoming much more natural to talk about that dirty little “S-word.” The series, My Suicide Story, is a personal diary. Inviting people from all walks of life to partake in this ritual of emotional and spiritual cleansing. And the beautiful essence about it, is that you are welcomed in, with open arms. You matter. Your life matters! And with Joe and Christian leading the charge, hopefully, you can leave your suicide battles, in a stringent of tales. Never to be experienced or suffered in secrecy, again! After all, your secret gets told, and it is SAFE, with them!
To stay up to date with Joe and Christian Massa, with My Suicide Story, you can go on the following link: http://www.mysuicidestory.org. You can follow them on Twitter: @Christian_Massa, @itsjoemassa