Storytelling that Unites a Community
On April 14th, 2010, CJ Twomey took his own life in a shocking and heartbreaking episode. He was 20 years old.
CJ’s mother Hallie, father John and brother Connor were destroyed by the loss and burdened by the idea that they might have missed key warning signs that CJ was struggling. Already wracked with guilt, Hallie was further haunted by thoughts of the things her son would never do, the places he would never go.
Two years later, Hallie hit upon an idea to give herself closure and engage in a more direct way with suicide prevention. On Facebook, she put a call out to the world: would anyone take a tiny amount of CJ’s ashes with them on a trip somewhere beautiful or significant to them, and while there scatter his ashes, tell him how much his family loves him and chronicle their experience?
Hallie hoped for a dozen responses. Instead she sparked a phenomenon, creating an online community of 21,000 people all touched by her incredible strength and emotional honesty. It has become a refuge for those affected by suicide and has encouraged a wider dialogue with those contemplating it – as it so viscerally demonstrates the damage suicide wreaks upon tens of thousands of American families every year.
From Fenway Park to the Great Wall of China, from the Great Pyramids of Egypt to Rio de Janeiro, CJ’s ashes have been scattered by nearly a thousand people in a hundred different countries – each with their own inspiration for joining the movement.
Scattering CJ is a film that confronts persistent stigmas surrounding mental illnesses. Mental illness and suicide are some of the most prominent issues facing individuals today; it is the 10th leading cause of death in the country, and America’s overall suicide rate rose by 24 percent from 1999 to 2014. This correlates with far more dire mental health statistics as well: depression affects 20-25% of Americans ages 18 and up in a given year, but only half of all Americans experiencing an episode of major depression receive treatment. Worldwide, suicide rates have increased by 60% over the last 45 years.
While tremendous progress is being made, both through political policy and because of the work of mental health organizations throughout the world, we believe that film can be a way to reach people in a visceral, direct way. We hope Scattering CJ will educate and connect people who might be grappling with feelings of loneliness, uncertainty, or mental illness themselves–or people who can become allies or sources of strength to those who think they’re alone.
It’s so easy to forget to speak up or ask tough questions, and we hope to continue the difficult dialogue that Hallie has already prompted through her Facebook page. Join us and help upend the silence that often surrounds mental health issues.
Scattering CJ is currently in-development.
"Dear CJ, maybe one day your mom will find peace in realizing how many lives you have impacted in the most uplifting way." Kelly Vella Scattering CJ