Fearless Storytelling to Prevent Suicide

Initiative LIV
Grantee Partner Utah Film Center for the Benefit of Liv Forever Films LLC

After the tragic suicide of Liv Kunik, Liv’s family and a movie production team came together to create a documentary film called LIV. LIV is the story of sisters Tess and Liv, and Tess’ struggle to help Liv as she experiences depression and thoughts of suicide. This rare view of raw emotions and fear reveals the effects of stigma, the challenges of living with mental illness and the aftermath of suicide for Liv’s family. Liv’s sister Tess and her mother, Honey, publicly share their experience with Liv’s ongoing struggle with mental illness and her eventual suicide to open the door to discussions that are often stigmatized or silenced, leaving people to suffer in isolation without support and community.

LIV is designed to be screened on streaming services and through film festivals, schools, college clubs, faith organizations and community spaces. The documentary is meant to serve as a catalyst for breaking down societal stigma around mental illness by engaging audiences in open, honest and fearless conversations, while simultaneously connecting them to mental health services, and suicide awareness and prevention resources.

LIV is produced with the guidance of a team of therapists and vetted by Jason D. Williams, PsyD, MS Ed, Clinical Director of the Children’s Hospital Colorado and Pediatric Mental Health Institute. Dr. Williams shares, “LIV is a powerful experience, and an amazing film, that shows how the pain of suicide impacts those whose lives are touched by such a tragedy. The film is a conversation starter for the very important, and often misunderstood topics, mental health and mental illness. The story of LIV is one that is familiar to all of us and reminds us of the need to continue to bring the topic of mental health out of the shadows. LIV is an honest and timely story, which does not glorify the issues around mental health, but brings the issues out into the light, taking the stigma head on.” 

Through sharing Liv’s story with more than 1,100 people, the movie production team has learned that there is nothing like the LIV documentary available in real-time to youth and teens, parents, educators and medical professionals in the community. After hearing Liv’s and her family’s story, many teens have shared that this issue “suddenly feels real” to them. LIV’s story is relatable to young people and parents and has an opportunity to make a positive impact on this critical issue. After watching LIV, 83% of people said they felt more empowered to talk about their mental health and said they would recommend this film to someone struggling with their mental health.

As a result of coming together to share Liv’s story, the family and documentary team developed the non-profit organization, The LIV Project. The mission of The LIV Project is to share information and stories in creative and innovative ways to connect with youth and inspire open conversations with less fear and without judgment. The LIV Project has been holding youth-led conversations to create means of communication in their voices that are exciting and relatable to their generation. These youth-led conversations sparked the creation of The Game That Goes There, a game that has been used effectively in combination with film screenings to foster open dialogue about mental health and suicide. 

Once completed with additional content to include a call to action and tools to support fearless conversations, the LIV documentary will be offered for viewing in colleges, high schools, community centers, religious centers and mental health organizations world-wide. Because The LIV Project plans to provide organizations access to the film without a fee, it is anticipated that hundreds of groups will host screenings and conversations.

Continued outreach calls for building a website as a destination to learn more about how to schedule a virtual screening of LIV, how to start a fearless conversation, and how to connect to resources specific to various mental health related issues. Outreach efforts also include building partnerships with creatives and mental health organizations to identify gaps in tools needed to start conversations and ways to bring people together that encourage positive dialogue around mental health.

The staggering rise in US youth suicide rates makes The LIV Project an especially urgent endeavor. Shining a much-needed light on mental health issues, while recognizing the painful aftermath from a mental health struggle that ended in suicide, The LIV Project has, and will continue to catalyze productive community conversations around mental illness, while raising community awareness of the signs of mental illness, and providing connections to local, state and national mental health resources.

After viewing this film my child was able to break through and have a conversation with us about mental illness. The film made it okay for her and the veil was removed. We are grateful for the LIV message. It was a very healing, magical experience. Please get this film to everyone.

I have struggled with depression since 2016, and there were multiple times over the past four years that I have thought about taking my life. However, after watching this movie and seeing how Liv’s choice impacted her sister and mother I understood that committing suicide wasn’t an option for me anymore. I think that the honesty and raw emotion present in this film is one of the best things about it because it shows the reality and aftermath of suicide, which a lot of people don’t think about when they’re depressed. When I feel like I’m in that dark place, I think about the film and Liv’s mom and sister.

Madison, 20