Student-directed film 'Not Alone' sparks conversations about suicide, depression
Students gathered in Griffth Auditorium Thursday night for a screening of “Not Alone,” a documentary on teenage suicide and depression directed by junior Jacqueline Monetta.
The documentary, which featured interviews with nine teens struggling with suicidal thoughts and depression, was followed by a question and answer panel hosted by Duke’s chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and Duke Student Government.
"'Not Alone' was the film I wish I had in middle school in high school, and I hope it serves as a catalyst for other teens to take action,” Monetta said when she addressed the crowd after the screening.
After losing one of her best friends to suicide in high school, Monetta said she found herself watching films about depression and teen suicide. However, all the films she came across were made by adults and were not in tune with teenagers and high schoolers’ perspectives.
She realized that if she had trouble relating to these films, then teenagers—particularly those living with depression and experiencing suicidal thoughts—would find it difficult to use them as a resource. She then decided to create a documentary that would speak from “one teen to another.”
In the past four years, Monetta has worked alongside film producers, students, teachers, psychiatrists, organizations and other experts in the mental health field to produce and promote “Not Alone.”
The Q&A session after the screening featured Danielle Oakley, director of Counseling and Psychological Services, junior Alex Doan, president of NAMI at Duke, junior Mackenzie Drazan and senior Pooja Mehta. Monetta also sat on the panel and answered questions.
“I am in total awe of how well 'Not Alone' was able to tie in so many important factors in such a palatable and relatable way for all different backgrounds,” Drazan said.
Doan explained that watching the film and seeing others go through the same thing he did truly made him feel “not alone.”
“As someone who battled mental health issues in the past, the film more than anything was just validating," Doan said. "I saw myself in so many of the people interviewed, and it made my experiences feel justified and okay.”
Others in the auditorium were also moved by the screening.
“The people around me were clearly emotional and affected by the film, and it was so amazing to listen to the questions to panelists about mental illness and see how many people wanted to be able to help reach out to friends or know what to do if a friend ever reached out to them,” said Liv McKinney, a first-year who worked with DSG on the logistics of the screening.
Monetta said that the University, DSG, NAMI and faculty members were instrumental in helping to bring the screening to fruition.
“I'd say that 'Not Alone' is one of the coolest things I've been able to participate in at Duke,” Doan said. “[R]eally, all the credit in the world goes to Jacqueline. I really have no words for how amazing that film was.”
McKinney—who was recently re-elected as senator for services and sustainability—echoed similar sentiments about working to help in coordinate logistics required to screen the film.
“After watching the film, I can say that helping plan this screening was one of the most powerful things I have been able to have even a small part of while I've been at Duke,” McKinney said.
McKinney presented a budgetary statute last Wednesday in DSG senate, which was passed, to secure funding to screen the documentary. McKinney also noted that they were able to get some funding from CAPS for the screening.
Monetta shared that the film is going to be shown around several middle schools and high schools, alongside a curriculum that has been made to educate teenagers about depression.
She encouraged those in the audience to reach out to their schools and help her spark conversation amongst teens and provide support to middle and high school students struggling with thoughts of suicide and depression.
“The film wouldn't be what it is today without the support I have gotten from my high school and Duke,” Monetta said.