The push to give suicide attempt survivors more of a voice might actually be working.
While the Live Through This portrait project takes off with mentions by Brain Pickings, PostSecret and Upworthy, one national suicide prevention group has pointed out the trend and asked for more.
“Two examples of efforts to provide forums for survivors of suicide attempts are Live Through This and What Happens Now?” Suicide Prevention Resource Center director Jerry Reed wrote earlier this month. “We need to expand efforts to encourage and support attempt survivors in bringing their expertise to the struggle against suicide,” including through peer support networks.
That call for more peer support _ for more people who’ve had suicidal thoughts or actions using that experience to help others _is more significant than you might think. Here’s why: The suicide prevention and mental health fields already have plenty of peers, many more than we know. Many of them just don’t feel comfortable identifying themselves.
Stigma? Among the very people who should know better? Oh, yes.
A quick note to begin: This blog was part of a live segment by The Huffington Post last week, along with three attempt survivors and a handful of sites on the topic. You can watch it here and explore the resources linked under the video.
This week’s story is about someone who worked for years in suicide prevention, knew and preached the coping skills and still ended up trying to kill herself. Natalie De Stefano wrote to us last month, and her story leapt off the page.
Imagine having a migraine, or living on the brink of one, for 20 years. And finding no medications that help. And being told, “Hang on ’til after menopause.” Natalie tried. As she counseled suicidal veterans as a case manager, she wore sunglasses and kept her pills nearby. She loves her work, And then last year, the pain got worse. She began having migraines every day, with nausea and vomiting. After her attempt, she was in a coma for more than a week. She woke up angry.
Morning in Toronto. Barb Hildebrand gets up, feeds the dog, has coffee and sits down to another full day of talking about suicide and mental illness online. Many who lose someone to suicide want to turn the experience into something meaningful. Barb lost her husband, Rob, over Christmas in 2000. Eleven years later, she created the Facebook page Suicide Shatters and turned it into the rare space where attempt survivors, loss survivors and those with mental illness mingle. On Feb. 27, she reached 10,000 members.
What began as a few random posts has taken over her life and become her passion.
Before turning today’s post over to contributor GC, who writes forcefully but anonymously because of family concerns, here’s an example of how some of us are taking the silence around suicide and shoving it aside.
Last week, I walked into a Brooklyn bar where several people who had attempted suicide had gathered to celebrate a unique project, Live Through This. New York photographer Dese’Rae Stage is taking a series of portraits of attempt survivors just moments after they tell her their stories, and now she’s raising money to take the project national and visit other cities. There’s no anonymity. Everyone shares their real names. One person involved is Kevin Hines, who’s well-known for speaking publicly about his attempt and recovery. In his portrait, he looks totally at ease, smiling.
Other beautiful portraits lined the walls of the candlelit bar, and in the young, impossibly cool crowd I could barely pick out Dese’Rae’s mingling subjects from anyone else.