Last Friday, I was incredibly lucky to present as part of a panel of attempt survivors (with Craig Miller and Eduardo Vega) at the third annual Elevating the Conversation conference in Denver, CO. It was—and always is, when it happens—amazing to talk about my experiences and my work in a way that has the potential to influence future service providers to treat those of us who struggle with suicidal thoughts with a bit more compassion than we've historically been shown. I was also able to meet and photograph three incredible survivors from the Denver area. I can't wait to share their stories with you guys (but it's gonna be awhile before it happens). To top it all off, Doug and Kurt, from The S Word team, flew out and we did some filming! I'm really terrible in front of a camera—unless I can manage to forget it's there—and, luckily, they're very patient with me.
We closed the day out with a poem performed by Craig, and a slideshow of 75 of the portraits I've made for the project set to the LTT theme song, "Redeemed," by Charlotte Martin. It was apowerful day, and those last few moments really took it up to 11. When I got off the stage, I was all teary-eyed and shaky—but in a good way.
There's been some really nice press coverage of late:
- 15 Suicide-Attempt Survivors Tell Their Stories on Refinery29
- This Artist Is Changing the Way We Think About Suicide — One Photo at a Timeon Mic
- Live Through This: The Many Faces and Stories of Suicide Attempt Survivors onWomen You Should Know
All of these were really refreshing after a time suck of a courtship by a huge national magazinethat ended in me turning down the feature because they continually pushed me to share information I wasn't comfortable sharing. It was a painful experience that left me feeling emotionally manipulated and bullied in a way that seems wholly unique to large press outlets. I've felt it every single time I've dealt with one, and this was my third experience.
A big part of my mission these days is to change the focus of our conversations about suicide. I don't want to talk gory details, I want to talk about how these experiences affect us and what helps. While exposure for the project is always nice, I decided it wasn't worth compromising my principles again. Per the reporter, the editors would still like to run the piece—but only if I give them what they want, information which is in direct violation of the Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide (a good resource for all you bloggers and journalists out there). I'd much rather they made the choice to cover this story appropriately, as they claim to want to, but I'd also like to someday pay off my student loans—neither seems likely. I plan on writing more about this later, once I've done a little more processing.
In other news, I'll be speaking at the University of Kentucky in Lexington next Thursday afternoon from 5:30-7:30. It's free to the public, so if you're in the area, come on down.
In April, I'll be collecting stories and presenting at the American Association of Suicidology annual conference in Atlanta, as well as the National Council for Behavioral Health conference in Orlando, next month. I'll make one last stop in Toronto in May to present at the American Psychiatric Association conference, and then I'm taking the summer off to go on my HONEYMOON!
Thanks again for supporting the project. When I started four and a half years ago, I never thought that I'd have built such an incredible community of survivors and advocates, or that I'd find myself collaborating directly with the professionals, and I'm so grateful for the opportunity. There's still so much to do, but we've made a great leap in this past year, and I'm excited to see what happens next!