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Recently, a friend told me that 30 years ago his cousin’s 18-year-old son committed suicide. He was a popular kid from a middle-class family. No one including his family had a clue.

Nine years ago, a 21-year-old youth working in a local theater in Sonoma County committed suicide. Some of us knew and tried to help. He sent a very upbeat email three days before. Incredibly heart breaking and chilling to read.

As the French say, the more things change the more they stay the same. The statistics are frightening:

Each year in the U.S. about 2 million adolescents attempt suicide.

Every year, more than 4,000 young people between the ages of 15 and 24 take their own lives.

The rate of suicide in this age group has almost tripled in 15 years.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death in adolescents and the second leading cause of death among college-age young people.

More than 300 million young people are at risk for suicide, yet only 36 percent of young people receive treatment.

In 2010, the Crisis Assessment Prevention and Education team was launched to intervene with youth, ages 16 to 25, who are at risk of or experiencing first onset of serious psychiatric illness and risk factors: substance abuse, trauma, depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide risk.

A tremendous resource, CAPE is located in nine Sonoma County high schools, Santa Rosa Junior College and Sonoma State University. CAPE is staffed with Sonoma County Behavioral Health licensed mental health clinicians. They also established a mobile support team in 2012 to assist the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office and the Santa Rosa Police Department with 911 calls involving mental health and substance abuse crises.

Until Aurora House opened an adolescent unit in 2014, youth who were at serious risk for suicide were sent to Marin General, St. Helena, Napa and other locations for inpatient services, an incredible inconvenience and hardship for the adolescents and their families.

No matter how you cut it, the whole area of mental health remains silent to a good extent.

Think about it. We have no problem going to a doctor about physical problems we have in any part of our body except what’s going on in our head. We live in the 21st century, and most of us keep our mental problems locked in the closet. It’s difficult to believe there is still so much shame.

Education is everything, and it can do much to bring mental health out into the light.

The Social Action Committee of Congregation Shomrei Torah in Santa Rosa focuses on mental health for its fourth annual series, Social Action Goes to the Movies. The four-month project is themed “Mental Health — It Takes a Community” and includes three films and a mental health forum.

The series kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Shomrei Torah with “A Reason to Live,” a powerful documentary about teen and young adult depression and suicide. The focus is on healing outcomes, with personal stories of hope told by young people of different ethnicities and sexual orientations and their families. A panel discussion will follow the film, featuring Katie Bivin, clinical specialist for CAPE; Madeleine Prospero, coordinator for Windsor High School’s Project Success; Lauren Petersen, community liaison for Aurora Hospital in Santa Rosa and presenter for the National Alliance on Mental Illness; and Paolo Breschi, one of the authors of this piece. The program is free and open to the public.

Other films in the series are “The Mask You Live in,” which addresses the narrow definitions of masculinity and will be shown on March 19, and “Poster Girl,” a film about a cheerleader turned machine gunner in Iraq who battles post-traumatic stress disorder. That film will be shown on April 16. The project ends on May 22 with a community forum on depression.

Paolo Breschi is social-emotional counselor at Windsor Middle School. Larry Carlin is a member of the Shomrei Torah Social Action Film Committee.

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