Riggs Co-hosts Community Event on Suicide



Mariel HemingwayPartnering with the Berkshire International Film Festival (BIFF), the Erikson Institute for Education and Research of the Austen Riggs Center presented Running From Crazy as a community-wide event on suicide, stigma and mental health. The event featured, an appearance by Mariel Hemingway, who co-produced the documentary about her family’s experience with suicide and mental illness. Though the stigma surrounding mental illness in general persists, nowhere is it more evident than in its relationship with suicide. The event was a unique opportunity for community members to come together and invigorate conversations around the issues surrounding suicide, stigma and mental health. Working with more than 20 community organizations as well as BIFF, the Center used the film and Mariel Hemingway’s advocacy to focus on these issues.  The film and ensuing roundtable discussion helped foster connections for audience members and to communicate the value and necessity of creating a dialogue around suffering, loss and grief.

“We work with patients who are often survivors of very serious suicide attempts, and others who are preoccupied in an ongoing way with suicide in their family or in their personal lives.  The stakes are very high.  We have an obligation to learn as much as we possibly can about what leads a person to become suicidal, how we as professionals can provide effective education and treatment for those wrestling with the issue of suicide.  This is why the Erikson Institute conducts research in the area of the effect of suicide on survivors; and other research on understanding what is going on inside of a person’s mind and in their life when they make a decision to end their life, with the hopes that such an understanding will allow us to recognize more clearly moments of heightened risk and to intervene” added Evelyn Stefansson Nef Director of the Erikson Institute, Jane G. Tillman, PhD as she joined Medical Director/CEO James Sacksteder, MD on the stage to welcome the audience.

The event featured the film, a deeply touching and frank exploration of Ms. Hemingway’s experience of the dysfunctional dynamics in the Hemingway family, which had a history of multiple suicides, substance abuse, and profound mental illness. When the lights came up on the deeply affected audience, a round table discussion convened on stage, with Drs. Sacksteder and Tillman, Ms. Vickery and finally Mariel Hemingway.  Ms. Hemingway addressed the audience as she came on stage, “Thank you for showing up…while this is my personal journey, I also think it is everybody’s journey…I do this because I want people to know they are not alone…When we start to tell our stories, we begin to heal.”

Dr. Sacksteder concluded the program by stating, “It is our hope that today’s event will invigorate conversations about these painful issues, and hope that the conversations will continue among all of you well after today’s program.”

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