Live Through This is a portrait series by Brooklyn-based photographer and suicide attempt survivor Dese’Rae Stage that takes a unique approach to suicide prevention by showing the faces and telling the stories of people who have attempted suicide, yet survived.
After surviving her own attempt, and getting the help she needed, Dese’Rae became a suicide awareness advocate and has dedicated much of the last decade attacking the issue from various angles. In addition to co-authoring an academic report on self-injury, Dese’Rae is also trained in crisis intervention.
“If we’re going to change the landscape of suicide awareness, we have to remove the stigma.”
“What I’ve found consistently is that suicide is an incredibly difficult topic for most people to face head on – even those in the mental health field. I have plenty of stories of doors closing in my face the moment I mentioned the word suicide. It occurred to me that an artful, humanistic document of the experience of suicide might help to break down the barriers I kept coming up against,” Dese’Rae explains.
For the past five years, Dese’Rae has traveled to 12 cities across the U.S. to meet with and speak to suicide attempt survivors. The resulting portraits and stories shared on Live Through This are intended to start conversations, provide emotional support and encourage survivors to own their experiences publicly and proudly humanizing an issue that is often told in statistics or simply left in silence.
“If we’re going to change the landscape of suicide awareness, we have to remove the stigma. Suicide is a dark topic, it’s true, but the whole purpose of this project is to shine a light, to cast a line, and to celebrate life.”
Meet some of the survivors
Nicole Keimer (Dese’Rae’s first portrait) has been an active member of the suicide prevention community for years. As a result of being bullied about her weight, she developed and struggled with multiple eating disorders from adolescence through her early twenties. She discusses how these struggles led her to consider suicide as an option. Read more about Nicole here.
Keris Myrick is the CEO of a peer-run organization and president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. She was featured in the New York Times for her strategy of using a busy schedule to combat the schizoaffective and obsessive-compulsive disorders she lives with. Read more about Keris here.
Josh Sweeney is a 25 year old server and volunteer in Orlando, Florida. He has lived through abuse, addiction, self-injury, and multiple suicide attempts. Read more about Josh here.
Melody Moezzi is a 34 year old Iranian-American lawyer, writer, and human rights advocate in Raleigh, NC. She lives with bipolar disorder and attempted suicide when she was 25. Read more about Melody here.
Paolo Sambrano is writer and performance artist from Oakland, California. He’s was the writer/producer and star of a one man show called Bi-Poseur about his experiences with mental illness, suicide, and the death of his mother. Read more about Paolo here.
A few facts about suicide in the U.S.
A suicide is attempted every 40-60 seconds
A suicide is completed every 15-18 minutes
Suicide rates are highest for females aged 45-54 and males aged 75 and older.
Men are 4 times more likely to die by suicide than women, but women attempt suicide 3 times more often than men.
More Americans suffer from depression than coronary heart disease (7 million), cancer (6 million) and AIDS (200,000) combined.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
All images © Dese’Rae L. Stage and republished here with permission.