Focus on saving young lives

By Crystal Pugsley of the Plainsman
Posted 4/13/24

Iroquois youth brings suicide awareness movie to Huron theater

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Focus on saving young lives


Rebecca Bich, a senior at Iroquois High School, is dedicating her Senior Cap Stone project to suicide prevention in memory of a classmate and close friend who took his own life in 2018.

She has spearheaded the showing of “My Ascension,” in Huron Luxury Cinemas at 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 22. The film follows the story of Emma, a 16-year-old varsity cheerleader who attempted to end her life. For years Emma struggled quietly with anxiety and depression and was too ashamed to share her pain with family or friends.

“My Ascension” is an inspiring look at Emma’s story and includes firsthand experiences of families, friends, school officials and suicide prevention experts. The film does not shy away from the difficult realities of the ongoing youth suicide crisis but shares valuable resources to help keep teens safe.

Middle school and high school students are encouraged to view the film with a support person to be there for them.

“I knew about the film a couple years ago,” Bich said. “I had a bunch of fundraisers in memory of one of my own friends I lost from suicide. I heard about the movie on Facebook and we were going to do that, but ended up never getting to it.

“For my Senior Cap Stone project, I decided I would show that movie,” she added.

In search of support, Bich contacted Huron Cares and Beadle County Survivors groups that meet in Huron. Jessica Baum, clinical director at Community Counseling Services, said the suicide prevention group was launched following a postvention event in 2023. They meet the third Monday of each month at Hope Lutheran Church.

Baum said the Helpline Center reached out to encourage holding a “My Ascension” showing, at about the same time that Bich contacted their group. “The rest is history,” Baum said.

Bich said the Huron Cares group had already purchased the movie, although it hasn’t been shown in Huron before.

“I didn’t have to buy it at all,” Bich added. “My basketball coach is Mike Moore and he owns the theater. I asked him if we could do it there. It was nice.”

The theater seats 200, and each person attending will receive a complementary bag of popcorn and a soda. “Thankfully I had some donations from different groups in Huron that allowed me to get more free things,” Bich said.

Bich said she raised about $1,000 in her fundraisers and is offering a $500 college scholarship to be presented to a senior at the show.

“I used the other $500 for door prizes,” Bich added. “I made mental health baskets. There’s skin care stuff, sweatshirts, comfy clothes, slippers, tea, just comforting things, like soft blankets.”

Following the movie, a panel will answer questions and share additional information about suicide prevention.

• 50,000 Americans die by suicide each year
• 20 young people die by suicide each day in the United States
• Social support and connection are key factors in preventing death by suicide

• Recognizing the signs and knowing how to respond can keep you and your loved ones safe

“No one really likes to talk about it,” Bich said. “I just wanted there to be a way to get it out there and not just forget everything.”

Bich was in seventh grade when her friend, Isaac Machtemes, an eighth grader, took his own life. “We always were good friends, and our parents were friends,” Bich said. “We would go camping together, we did everything together and we fought like we were siblings.

“He was a really energetic person, and we never would have expected anything to happen,” she added. “An hour before it happened, I was standing on one side of the gym at Iroquois, and he yelled my name and was waving.

“Doing the fundraisers helped me, and it helped to be with the people that knew him and lean on them when I needed help,” she added. “Just be aware of people’s changes in how they act. And make people feel seen and not just throwing things under the rug.

“It’s kind of like, if you just waited another day, that could solve everything,” Bich added.