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Teen brings 'The S Word' to the Peninsula for suicide prevention

Peninsula Daily News - 3/30/2018

PORT TOWNSEND —"I didn't think anything would actually happen."

Callay Boire-Shedd, 17, a junior at Port Townsend High School, has been touched by suicide twice in her short life. Her friend's sister died 10 years ago, and nearly three years ago, a friend took his own life.

"The one that really hit me hard was in May 2015. Benji Kenworthy committed suicide at 15," Boire-Shedd said.

"Benji was a very close friend of mine," she said. "We commuted to West Sound Academy in Poulsbo together every day. He was a very outgoing person, really sweet. A theater kid, very active at Key City. He was one of those kids who did everything very well.

"He confided in me and others about his struggles. I was in eighth grade at the time and didn't know what to do. We didn't have any trusted adults to reach out to for help. We were so scared.

"You are afraid of losing their friendship because you betrayed their trust if you said anything," she said.

So, Benji's friends didn't say anything to anyone. They let this secret be his.

Boire-Shedd now sees a different approach for handling such a situation.

"Benji would talk to his friends about suicide, but he never talked to adults. There was never a trusted adult that he felt he could talk to," she explained.

"I want to move the conversation from peer-to-peer to kid-to-trusted adult. It doesn't have to be a parent, but it has to be an adult they trust to get help. A lot of kids struggle with this."

Boire-Shedd chose suicide prevention as her senior class project that began with a screening at Port Townsend High School on Thursday of "The S Word," a documentary that was shown at last year's Port Townsend Film Festival.

The documentary follows people who have attempted to take their own lives and survived to tell their stories of loneliness and depression. They are now committed to preventing others from getting to the edge.

"The S Word" will be shown at noon Saturday, April 7 at the Rose Theatre, 235 Taylor St. It's a free event, but donations will benefit The Benji Project. The film will be followed by a talk by its director, Lisa Klein.

Boire-Shedd's work benefits The Benji Project, a nonprofit organization that helps teens navigate their emotional ups and downs during adolescence and offers scholarships and programs. Started by Benji's mother, Cynthia Osterman, it is dedicated to her son's memory.

Rocky Friedman, owner of the Rose Theatre, said he wanted to bring the film back to the community.

"I, as well as the rest of the audience, was impacted by this film," Friedman said. "I wondered how this subject found the filmmakers. In the credits I saw who the film was dedicated to and made the connection.

"I told the filmmakers that I wanted to have the film back for another screening and told them the theater is yours. I'll donate it to you," he added.

"When Callay said she wanted to do this for her class project, it all came together. You do what you can to support these very important efforts."

After the film was shown to students at Port Townsend High School on Thursday, a round-table discussion was held on the topic of suicide.

The discussion was facilitated by local mental health professionals. Megan Smith, the school's counselor, was joined by Patricia Bolen LMHC; Freida Fenn, LMFT, Deborah Gellert, LMHC; Craig Isenberg, LMFT; Mark Saran, LMHC and Jean Scaroborough, LMHC all of whom volunteered to help with the project.

Filmmaker Klein was on hand to introduce her film to the two groups, totalling about 180 students. She said that she was affected by suicide twice by close family members. She has been taking the film around to college campuses and communities to get the conversation started.

Also attending the high school event was Kelechi Ubozoh, who is one of the five survivors featured in the film. She said she was a two-time survivor of attempts.

Boire-Shedd said there are so many red flags for suicide and her message is to pay attention and speak up.

"Blocking people out, being quiet and depressed. Hiding your feelings. Feeling like you are failing. That you're not good enough. Being bullied in school. And now, social media plays a huge part in this issue," she said.

She said it's not always the ones you expect who will consider suicide.

For more information about The Benji Project visit www.thebenjiproject.org .

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2555 or at jmcmacken@peninsuladailynews.com.

 
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