May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and a new viral YouTube video called "The Forge" is taking a rather dramatic look at how suicide affects those left behind, at the same time that a Manhattan call center is expanding its reach to help people in distress. NY1's Cheryl Wills filed the following report.
Eric Lim was so distraught when his 30-year-old sister Tanya committed suicide in 2011 that he turned his eulogy for his big sister into a fiery film.
"She had suffered through clinical depression throughout her adult life. My family and I offered all the care and resources that we could," Lim says.
Lim's four-minute short, called "The Forge," is being hailed as a powerful dramatization that is having quite an impact on those who watch it. It was uploaded to YouTube less than two weeks ago and it already has more than a quarter-million hits.
"I wish I could have told her a little earlier and really gotten to tell her how important she was to me. And that's the idea of the film, to let everyone know how important they are," Lim says.
The message behind Lim's film is perhaps needed more now than ever. A Centers for Disease Control report out this month finds that suicide rates are up among a non-traditional group: Americans between the ages of 35 and 64.
Researchers note that the 38,364 suicides in 2010 was higher than the 33,687 deaths from motor vehicle crashes in the same year.
To help the growing number of people in distress, the Mental Health Association-NYC held a ribbon cutting in Lower Manhattan just days ago to promote the expansion of their 1-800-LifeNet call center, which provides free and confidential help around the clock.
"Being able to have immediately access 24/7 from anywhere, any place to a trained mental health professional is critical, because it's not just connecting people to service but just being able to talk to somebody," says Giselle Stolper, the president of MHA-NYC.
Whether it is talking to somebody or watching a film like "The Forge," activists say they will do whatever it takes to give people in distress hope.
"If we get one person to say 'This helped me, this stopped me from hurting myself,' then we would feel successful," says Stephen Reedy, the director of "The Forge."