Fake suicide staged for public awareness video

A spate of teen suicides over the last year and a half has brought the difficult issue to the fore in Red Deer, with community information sessions, fundraising events and meetings held to bring awareness and show support.

A spate of teen suicides over the last year and a half has brought the difficult issue to the fore in Red Deer, with community information sessions, fundraising events and meetings held to bring awareness and show support.

Now, one group that sprang up in February following the sixth suicide of a Red Deer teen is hoping its effort will engender hope among those who see suicide as a way out.

With more than 7,000 members, the Facebook group Suicide Awareness Red Deer, its #timeforchange has made it its mission to raise awareness and provide a safe place to talk about the six young lives that were lost.

Trevor Jenner, one of the page’s administrators, had a plan two months ago to bring the issue right in front of the eyes of Red Deerians. The plan was to stage a fake suicide at the intersection of Molly Banister Drive and Gaetz Avenue during the noon hour one day in September — a young person was to walk into the intersection and put a fake handgun to his head while the scene was filmed, to become part of a public awareness video.

The idea was to make the fake suicide as real as possible so as to shock people and force them to take note of the prevalence of suicide locally and around the world.

“We want real reactions, because some people do do it publicly. We want natural reactions. We want to hit people in a place where they don’t normally want to go. We’re at a point where it’s turning into a pandemic,” said Jenner in mid-August.

But neither the RCMP nor the City of Red Deer would support the idea of staging a death at a traffic-heavy public location, and Jenner and the group were forced to change tack. It took all of September to come up with an alternate arrangement, and finally on Sept. 29 about a dozen participants ranging in age from 14 to their mid-30s faked a suicide for their video in a controlled environment at Bower Ponds.

Jenner said the alternate arrangement resulted in a shoot that went “phenomenal,” with the weather turning from gloomy to bright to match the attitude the group is trying to convey.

“I’m still trying to wrap my head around how well that went and how our final scene really impacted a lot of us,” said Jenner.

“All our hearts stopped, and once our actor finished, we were like ‘Wow.’ ”

The shoot was organized so that the public would not be exposed to the scripted drama. Jenner said at first he was disappointed that the public mock suicide could not go ahead, but ultimately he was glad for the perspective the alteration afforded him and the diminished pressure the controlled shoot placed on participants.

While the RCMP got involved once it caught wind of the original plan and successfully dissuaded the group from doing the public display, Cpl. Sarah Knelsen with Red Deer City RCMP said the force was not made aware of the revised plan, and that could have made for a dangerous situation.

“If the police are called and we see somebody with a firearm and we don’t know, we take it as what we perceive it to be and we treat any firearm that we see as a firearm . . . . So it’s always better if they advise us what they are doing so we are aware and nothing bad will happen if we are called,” said Knelsen.

The executive director of Red Deer’s Suicide Information and Education Services did not agree with the group’s initial approach when notified in August.

“There’s a lot of post-traumatic stress that comes along with suicide. When people are exposed to that it can cause a lot of different ranges of emotions. For us as an agency, this is not something that we would support,” said Laura MacNeill at the time.

This week, MacNeill said she had not been made aware of the revised shoot and “our stance remains the same, that we want awareness to be done in a positive fashion. We want to look at providing positive mental health and tools for that.”

Jenner said the group’s main goal through the video project is to raise awareness and bring attention to the issue, which affects all ages and all classes. With the Facebook page including members from many countries around the world, he said the finished product stands to have a big effect on many people.

“I have friends in the States that are begging me, ‘You need to get this out!’ ” said Jenner, 25.

He said the group is planning on working with area high and middle schools to affect change. It is also hoping to organize a T-shirt sale at a mall later this month.

While the group has reached out to Suicide Information and Education Services for resources to hand out at a future T-shirt sale, MacNeill stressed that the group is a separate entity from the local non-profit organization, which provides educational supports, counselling and therapy while making referrals in the community. She added that through her organization and others there are well-established resources and supports to deal with the issue of suicide, and those without training or a background in suicide prevention might not provide the best help to those in need.

On the whole, MacNeill said Red Deer has responded “wonderfully” since the six suicides came to light earlier this year.

“People have stood up and are talking about suicide. We get calls all the time from people who have now learned about what we do as an agency and are accessing services they may not have been aware of. Red Deer has had an incredible year of supporting one another and the community should be very proud of itself,” she said.

A new support group for survivors of suicide will be starting up in January, and MacNeill said anybody wanting customized workshops can call the office at 403-342-4966.

As for the video project, a second fake suicide is to be filmed. While the first shoot focused on public suicides and males, the second will feature a fake suicide done in private and focus on females.

Jenner said the goal is to have the video finished by the end of the month, at which point it will be uploaded to YouTube.

mfish@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health, receive flu shot. Photo via Government of Alberta
COVID cases climb in central zone, Red Deer

The total number of active COVID-19 cases in the province reached 3,138… Continue reading

Many rural municipalities were concerned about a proposed reduction to their industrial revenues, but Alberta’s municipal affairs minister has come up with an alternative solution. (Photo contributed)
Energy industry support won’t injure municipalities

Creating new wells or pipelines would result in a three year ‘tax holiday’

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and Premier Jason Kenney participated in a livestream on Oct. 17, 2020. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
UCP members pass resolution at AGM calling for privately funded health care option

EDMONTON — Members of Alberta’s governing United Conservative Party have narrowly endorsed… Continue reading

“We weren’t sure what to expect with just doing the 50/50. We have been positively surprised with sales so far,” says Craig Fleming, co-chair of the Red Deer Kinsmen Club’s raffle. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
Non-profits put their money on 50/50 draws

COVID impacts fundraising events

Student taking a math test. (Pixabay photo)
David Marsden: Students need more testing, not less

Testing has been central to Alberta’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s… Continue reading

Alberta Premier Jason Kenny and government house leader Jason Nixon chat before the speech from the throne delivered in Edmonton, Alta., on Tuesday, May 21, 2019. Alberta politicians are to return to the legislature Tuesday with a plan to discuss up to 20 new bills — many of which are focused on the province's economic recovery. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta legislature to resume Tuesday; focus to be on economic recovery

Alberta legislature to resume Tuesday; focus to be on economic recovery

This image taken with a slow shutter speed on Oct. 2, 2019, and provided by the U.S. Air Force shows an unarmed Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile test launch at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The Pentagon has raised to $95.8 billion the estimated cost of fielding a new fleet of land-based nuclear missiles to replace the Minuteman 3 (Staff Sgt. J.T. Armstrong/U.S. Air Force via AP)
Pentagon estimates cost of new nuclear missiles at $95.8B

Pentagon estimates cost of new nuclear missiles at $95.8B

FILE - In this Oct. 1, 2020, file photo Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell of Ky. walks towards the Senate floor on Capitol Hill in Washington. New virus relief will have to wait until after the November election. The architect of the Senate measure, McConnell, isn’t claiming the vote will advance the ball. Once the measure fails, he plans to turn the chamber's full attention to cementing a 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court by confirming Judge Amy Coney Barrett. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)
Deadline looms, but COVID relief deal may be far off

Deadline looms, but COVID relief deal may be far off

Large earthquake off Alaska prompts tsunami fears, fleeing

Large earthquake off Alaska prompts tsunami fears, fleeing

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his granddaughter Finnegan Biden, leave mass at St. Joseph On the Brandywine Roman Catholic Church in Wilmington, Del., Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020. The Biden family walked to pay respects at his son Beau Biden's grave. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Trump goes after Fauci, tries to buck up his campaign team

Trump goes after Fauci, tries to buck up his campaign team

FILE - This Sept. 15, 2015, file photo, shows Zion National Park near Springdale, Utah. A California woman who was missing for about two weeks in Zion National Park in Utah has been found and left the park with her family who had feared the worst, authorities said. Holly Suzanne Courtier, 38, of Los Angeles, was found Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, by search and rescue crews after park rangers received a tip that she had been seen in the park, Zion National Park officials said in a news release.(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
Woman missing for 2 weeks found safe in Zion National Park

Woman missing for 2 weeks found safe in Zion National Park

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti responds to a question during a news conference about training for judges Monday October 19, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Commons gives approval in principle to judges’ sexual assault training bill

Commons gives approval in principle to judges’ sexual assault training bill

Most Read