Live Through This is a collection of portraits and stories of suicide attempt survivors, as told by those survivors. Historically, attempt survivors have spoken under conditions of anonymity in order to save them from being shamed or discriminated against. Live Through This encourages survivors to own their experiences publicly–using both their names and likenesses–and thereby works to strip the issue of anonymity. It's the first known project of its kind, exploring a world that has remained a taboo for far too long.
Live Through This exists for many reasons. Here are some of them:
· It humanizes the issue of suicide by putting faces to the numbers. The survivors who share their stories here are real people who have been through hell. They are also engaging, fascinating people whose voices deserve to be heard. It asks you to look into their eyes, to see their humanity, to find empathy.
· Everybody should know the basic tenet of suicide prevention: If you're afraid a loved one might be suicidal, ASK. The thought that asking might be putting the idea into your loved one's head is a myth.
· Depression affects 1 in 10 people–a huge number–but stigma is everywhere. That stigma often results in shame and silence, and the severe depressions that result in suicide frequently go unnoticed. What if this was affecting your mom, your partner, or your best friend?
· The media sensationalizes suicide for stories. You've inevitably heard of Aaron Swartz and Tyler Clementi, but how often do you hear about suicides that don't come with a snappy headline? How often is a story on suicide presented with a sympathetic view of mental illness, or information on warning signs and strategies? Not often.
· Each suicide affects 6 people intimately: I have lost dear friends to suicide. Have you?
· Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US, and it's on the rise. And here we are, afraid of it. I'm convinced that the simple act of getting people to talk about it will save lives. It's a serious public health issue, and one we can do something about if we can just set our fears aside.
The portraits and stories are the main product of Live Through This, but the website is the vehicle, and the accessibility of that is incredibly important. It [hopefully] provides comfort to those who are down, insight to those who have trouble understanding depression or suicidal ideation, and a sort of catharsis for those who have lost a loved one. I know for a fact this project has already saved one life–and there's even a Live Through This tattoo out there in the world.
In March 2013, I completed a fundraising campaign via Kickstarter that is allowing me to take the project on the road. There are over 200 attempt survivors across the country who want to share their stories.
Eventually, I'd like to create a mobile exhibition that will serve as an educational tool for universities, organizations, and anyone else who might like to promote suicide awareness in a unique, relatable way. In the meantime, I am booking speaking engagements. When all is said and done, I hope to have enough material for a book or film, but that's likely several years in the future.
After a brief introductory email correspondence, a date is set for a meeting.
The meeting is broken down into two parts: the interview, and then the shoot. First, the survivor tells their story. I let them go at their own pace and include only the details they wish to share. I try not to interrupt–I prefer the story to be as purely from the survivor's perspective as possible and don't want to throw it off course–though I do often ask a few questions at the end. Everything is recorded. Afterward, while the survivor is still in that experiential headspace, we make a set of portraits. Again, my direction is minimal. My only request is that the survivor look directly into my lens. The entire process usually takes about an hour and a half.
Each portrait is presented on the website with a curated snippet of the survivor's story: something poignant or a unique perspective. When paired in this way, the portraits and stories work to de-stigmatize suicide as a topic unworthy of everyday dialogue and to serve as proof of life on the other side of a suicide attempt.
Do you want to share your story? If so, please send me an email with the following information: age (over 18 only please, no exceptions), location, phone number, a brief description of the situation surrounding your suicide attempt, and whether or not you're comfortable being filmed (please note that your voice will be recorded, at the very least). In order to participate, you must be willing to use your full name and sign a model release (click to download).
I have a number of survivors across the country who are interested in telling their stories. The following cities act as pods (meaning that there are a minimum of three survivors in each who have contacted me about participation), and are where I am currently focusing my travel efforts:
· New York, NY (Ongoing)
San Francisco, CA (4/14/13-4/19/13)
Washington, DC (6/22/13-6/24/13)
Raleigh, NC (8/16/13-8/20/13)
Austin, TX (11/26/13-11/30/13)
· Miami, FL (1/2/14-1/7/14)
· Orlando, FL (1/7/14-1/11/14)
· Seattle, WA (February 2014)
· Los Angeles, CA (March 2014)
· Boston, MA (April 2014)
· Norfolk, VA (April 2014)
· Philadelphia, PA (May 2014)
· Minneapolis, MN (June 2014)
· Portland, OR (August 2014)
· Eugene, OR (August 2014)
· Chicago, IL (POSTPONED)
This is a long-term project, and it may take some effort to coordinate meeting/shooting sessions. Your patience is greatly appreciated.
To inquire about bringing Dese'Rae to speak about LTT at your university or event, email Monica Orta at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2/22/13 - Brooklyn College
3/17/13 - BatHaus Coworking Space - Brooklyn, NY
9/24/13 - University of Texas at Austin
9/30/13 - Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Live Through This is presented in partnership with the Best Day Project.