Understanding the Brain

A Reason to Live (film)

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A Reason to Live is a 2009 documentary film about teen and young adult depression and suicide. The film captures twelve personal stories of despair and hope, told by young people of different ages, ethnicities and sexual preferences, and their families. It was produced and directed by Allen Mondell and Cynthia Salzman Mondell [1][2] of Media Projects, Inc.

A Reason to Live
Movie Poster
Directed by Allen Mondell, Cynthia Salzman Mondell
Produced by Allen Mondell, Cynthia Salzman Mondell
Written by Allen Mondell, Cynthia Salzman Mondell
Editing by Brian Hockenbury
Distributed by Media Projects, Inc.
Release date(s) 2009
Running time College/Adult Version (52:00); Classroom Version (33:00)
Country U.S.
Language English


Filmmakers Allen Mondell & Cynthia Salzman Mondell were asked to make this film by a close family friend whose son committed suicide. They wanted the film to serve as a tool to educate others about the seriousness of depression and recognize the warning signs leading up to suicide.[3]

CONTACT Crisis Line professionals in Dallas provided ongoing feedback about these issues and how to portray them sensitively on film. Members of their staff participated in the re-enactment of two crisis line calls that involved a team of mental health professionals, actors and film crew working to assure accurate and ethical treatment of these sensitive subjects and the individuals interviewed. The calls are intended to give viewers the verbal skills necessary to communicate to someone who is depressed and thinking about suicide.

In post-production, focus groups from North Texas area mental health organizations, the medical school, and university counseling centers provided input to assure that presentation of the issues in the film upheld professional standards of mental health practice within this specific population.


Two DVD versions of the film were released by Media Projects, Inc. in 2009, including a 52-minute College/Adult version, as well as a 33-minute classroom version that also includes a panel discussion with community experts, filmmakers’ comments and a Discussion & Resource Guide to be used by counselors/educators. The film is being used as an educational tool by many high school and college counselors, as well as the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

The target audience for the film includes: Young Adults ages 15–24, Families, Youth Agencies & Civic Organizations, Public & Private Schools, Community Colleges, Public & Private Colleges & Universities, Public Libraries, Coaches and Mentors, Mental Health Professionals, Social Workers & Public Health Professional, GLBT Organizations and Community Centers, Medical & Rehabilitation Professionals, Hospitals & Medical Offices, Child Protective Services & Foster Care Systems, Spiritual & Religious Institutions, Law Enforcement Professionals & Correctional Facilities, Elected Officials & Government Agencies.


The film has received positive reviews from various health professionals, counseling facilities and educational organizations.

American Library Association’s Booklist magazine calls the film a “useful resource for teens, parents, and educators.” Dr. Linda Holloway [4], Chair of the Dept. of Rehabilitation, Social Work & Addictions at University of North Texas echoed that sentiment and commented “…(the film) is long overdue. It is a great resource for colleges and universities to open the dialogue with students.”

Missy Wall, Director, Teen CONTACT Program, CONTACT Crisis Line Dallas [5], TX commented, “Suicide is a silent killer of young adults, and A Reason to Live gives a voice and hope to the deadly silence. As an educator, this film has become an invaluable tool that has only begun to change and touch the lives of many young adults. At a recent training with the film, a teenage girl said, ‘I identified with so many things in the film and, now, I know that I am not alone.’ Hope saves lives, and A Reason to Live our new hope!”

Dr. Betsy Kennard [6], a researcher and associate professor of psychiatry at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas has said “This poignant documentary adds a personal perspective to a major public health problem, highlighting that while there is a need for suicide prevention and intervention, current treatments for depression are promising & offer hope."

Youth Today wrote "This sensitive, carefully constructed film leaves an unforgettable impression. From bleak moments to rays of hope, it tells the truth." [7]

Other Reviews

Other reviewers of the film include Educational Media Reviews Online [8] and School Library Journal [9]

Other Films by Allen Mondell and Cynthia Salzman Mondell


  1. The Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference
  2. University Film and Video Association
  3. Mental Health America of Greater Dallas 2009 Adolescent Symposium
  4. Dr. Linda Holloway, Chair of Department of Rehabilitation, Social Work & Addictions at University of North Texas [1]
  5. CONTACT Crisis Line Dallas
  6. Dr. Betsy Kennard, Researcher and Associate Professor of Psychiatry at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas [2]
  7. Youth Today
  8. EMRO
  9. School Library Journal

External links