Local News

Slain student's legacy expands to suicide prevention effort

Posted July 16, 2018 7:17 p.m. EDT

— More than 38,000 people kill themselves in the U.S. every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but about 25 times that number attempt suicide and fail.

The Light House Project, a Muslim-based community service organization, reserved a theater at Regal Crossroads theater complex Monday night to show "The Ripple Effect," a documentary that organizers hope will raise awareness about suicide prevention.

"The Ripple Effect" highlights the journey of Kevin Hines, who attempted to take his life when he was 19 by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. The film shows how his suicide would have affected various people and how those people have been affected by advocacy work in the years since then. It also includes the stories of individuals and families who are using their personal tragedies to bring hope and healing to others.

"What I hope that they learn is simply that there is hope. Simply by coming out and talking, by coming out and sharing experiences, that you can get through crisis," said Dena Ali of The Light House Project.

The group was founded in honor of Deah Barakat, a Muslim dental student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who was killed, along with his wife and sister-in-law, in 2015 in what many people believed was a hate crime.

"I think what we created is beyond what he would have ever imagined," said Shadi Sadi, a friend of Barakat's.

Barakat had a passion for helping young people, Ali said, which is why The Light House Project decided to host a movie about suicide.

"For the Muslim community, we're taught what a sin suicide is," she said.

Yet, she added, many people often miss the signs of mental illness and depression in themselves and others that could signal the potential for suicide. Recent high-profile suicides of designer Kate Spade and television personality Anthony Bourdain show that even people who seem to have it all can suffer from depression.

"Among the Muslim youth, there were similar issues with mental health and a fear of disclosing mental health concerns," Ali said.

A Raleigh Fire Department captain and a graduate student, Ali said she became interested in the topic of suicide when she learned that firefighters are more likely to die from suicide than in the line of duty.

"Sometimes it takes a third party to look at you and say, 'What you went through is really difficult, and I understand why you are stressed. I'm here for you,'" she said. "Sometimes just hearing that from somebody, just realizing somebody understands you, is like taking a huge weight off your shoulders, and you can start to move towards healing rather than suffering in silence."

Monday night's showing of "The Ripple Effect" is already sold out, so the organizers said they are planning another showing on a date that hasn't yet been set.