With his new movie Speak to Me, Dix Hills artist Kurt Damas hopes to shed light on men’s mental health

The grief that followed the death of his close friend Kurt Damas last year changed his view of mental health.

The loss he experienced was a catalyst for Damas, who had also lost his uncle, to write and direct a film that he hoped would help start a conversation about it. Psychological healthEspecially among men. “Speak to Me,” which premieres at Sayville Cinemas on February 16, is about two young adults who must learn how to overcome grief while also dealing with the stigma of openness.

“You grow up thinking, ‘Well, I have to be tough because I’m a man.'” And in fact, you shouldn’t be tough or sit in pain or whatever, you should express those feelings,” said Damas, 34, of Dix Hills.

Kurt Damas pictured with his best friend Barry Ingram ...

Kurt Damas, pictured, with his close friend Barry Ingram, whose death inspired Damas to write and direct Talk to Me.
Credit: Randy Dadona

Co-director, producer and co-writer Trevor Jackson, 32 – who also knew Damas’ friend Barry Ingram, who died unexpectedly at the age of 30 – said the script highlights “the value of using your circle, your soul, your community to find someone to talk to when go through things.”

‘talk to me’

The film will be shown at 6:00 pm on Thursday, February 16, at Cyville Cinemas. Tickets can be purchased online at speaktomethefilm.com.


If you have thoughts of suicide, call one of these numbers immediately for help:

Family Service League – Hotline 24/7: 631-952-3333

Long Island Crisis Center in Belmore – 24/7 Crisis Hotline: 516-679-1111

Crisis text line: Text HOME to 741741

Family Service Association and Project Joe Crisis Action Team – 1-888-FSL-CCAT (1-888-375-2228)

Jackson highlighted his research on mental health, particularly within the African-American community, while writing the film. He said that many people struggle in silence.

“A lot of times in the African American community, things are kept, because there’s a taboo around mental health or being nice, especially for black men,” said Jackson, of the Bay Shore. “We keep it, we don’t talk to anyone about it. And that’s what the movie is about. Talk to me, talk to someone, about what you’re going through.”

Men more likeable to die by suicide in the United States, although women are more likely to seek mental health care, with more than one in four women, or 28.6%, receiving mental health treatment in 2021 compared to 17.8% of men, according to Latest statistics Available at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, Karen Borstein, president and CEO of the Family Services Association, said the stigma surrounding men seeking mental health care may have eased in recent years. She said both men and women seek mental health services from the Long Island nonprofit at an equal rate.

“In general, I think more and more talk is being made about mental health,” she said, emphasizing the availability of resources. “The message is, get help. Ask questions of friends or relatives if you see they are feeling really down to make sure they don’t hurt themselves.”

Melvina Ward, owner of Undertaking Alternatives, Inc. In St. James, as a funeral director in the movie and provided the funeral home as a set. I reached out to share after seeing a post about the film on social media.

“I think it’s very, very important that people understand that people handle things differently…and that there needs to be an open dialogue about this,” said Ward, 47.

Damas said he is “lucky” to have a strong support system of friends and family he can count on.

I am not a psychologist or psychiatrist. But I think if we talk more to each other, if we’re both vulnerable and open about what’s really going on, we can stop people from going down this path of suicide,” he said.

If you have thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or the other agencies listed below.

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