Boy Interrupted is an HBO documentary film that raises powerful and troubling questions. It asks how a boy can threaten to end his life at 6 and 7 years of age and then actually do it at the age of 15. This documentary, produced by parents who are gifted film artists themselves, struggles to find answers about what kind of family this troubled boy really had. By its very nature, it is a raw and revealing display of personal life at its most disturbing level. How can a mother, we may ask, make a film about the death of her own son? What defines this film as a remarkably unique and truth-telling achievement is the way it explores how filmmaking can create closure for its creators as well as its audience.

Evan2 Dana Perry gathered home movies, photographs, and a variety of different documents to tell the story of her son, Evan. Dana deals with Evan’s bipolar illness, his short and extremely troubled life, and his awful death. She shows the impact these events had on those who loved Evan the most. She interviews his siblings and friends, his doctors and his teachers. The camera provides insight and revelation, and yet Boy Interrupted is a film that is full of profound despair. Evan’s short life leaves so many unanswered questions that any feeling person will be moved by it very deeply. It is an essentially human story, and a parent’s worst nightmare.

In the last few minutes of the film the suicide note that Evan left behind is put on the screen. Evan listed six things to die for and six things to live for. His list is both chilling and revealing.

Six Things to Die For:

1.    Fear of failing
2.    Lack of trust in friends
3.    Working hard for what?
4.    Never being able to fit in
5.    Knowing all the bad things are true; being lazy, loser, ugly, untalented and stupid
6.    What’s the point?

Six Things to Live For:

1.    Potential for being something great
2.    Love of the people I trust
3.    The future
4.    Finding trusted friends
5.    Sadness brought to family
6.    Feeling better later

He concluded his note by writing: “So, six things to live for and six things to die for.” When you consider it these words seem almost clinical.

There is so much on both these lists that is true for many teenagers today. The statistics tell us that teen suicide is the number two killer among young people in America. If you want to get a sense of this tragedy Boy Interrupted provides it in large doses.

Mental disease is quite real. Christians who think otherwise should see this dark and powerful documentary. It refuses to provide simplistic answers.

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  1. Nathan Petty October 6, 2009 at 9:51 am

    Thanks again for a timely and important word for the church. Never having experienced depression I used to be quite unsympathetic towards those who suffered from various forms of mental illness. “If only they would not succumb to this self pity?” Quite a spiritual giant I was.
    God graciously led me into friendships with several people over the last several years who experienced real, debilitating depression.
    I still harbor serious misgivings about secular psychology, but I now am able to love and support those afflicted with mental illness.
    I look forward to seeing the video, as painful as it may be.

  2. Nick Morgan October 11, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    Hi John,
    This post hits close to home for me. My youngest brother committed suicide at 18 years old. I know my Mom has never fully recovered from it. Christians who think this can’t happen to them have the “ostrich syndrome”.
    God bless!

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