Dese Rae L. Stage
2013 Mental Health Hero Cartoon-A-Thon
Drawing by Chato Stewart
Dese’Rae L. Stage (link: deseraestage.com) is a Brooklyn-based
photographer working on a series of the portraits and stories of
suicide attempt survivors called Live Through This (link:
livethroughthis.org). Live Through This strips suicide of its
anonymity, encourages survivors to own their experiences publicly and proudly, and asks the rest of us, “why not talk about it?” It is the first known project of its kind, exploring a world that has remained a taboo for far too long.
Dese’Rae never knew she wanted to be a photographer. In fact, she completed her Bachelor of Science in Psychology at East Tennessee State University in 2005, with the ultimate goal being to complete her Ph.D. studying self-injury and suicide. As an undergrad, she helped to co-author a self-injury self-report measure and helped to develop studies on a range of other topics surrounding suicide, self-injury, and intimate violence. Life took turns, as it does, and after one of her best friends died by suicide, Dese’Rae left grad school to move to New York. It was there that she picked up a camera for the first time.
After several years of honing her skills by photographing live music, she realized she could approach the topic of suicide via photography. In 2010, Live Through This was born. The first portrait was made in December of 2011. The hope behind Live Through This is that it will humanize the issue of suicide by putting faces to the numbers. The survivors who share their stories for the project are real people who have been through hell. They are also engaging, fascinating people whose voices deserve to be heard. Live Through This asks the viewer to look into their eyes, to see their humanity, to find empathy. To date, Dese’Rae has photographed 34 suicide attempt survivors just moments after they told her their stories.
Dese’Rae’s interest is not that of an outsider. She is a survivor of nine years of self-injury, as well as a suicide attempt catalyzed by an emotionally and physically abusive relationship. She was diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder in 2004. She thinks this is a key element of Live Through This. “I’ve made myself vulnerable. I’ve told my story, and the people who come forward to share their own know that. It’s easier to tell the story when you know the person listening isn’t judging you for it,” she says.LP 14 – Sweet Pea 11 – Precious 10 and Belly 7
The response to the project has been tremendous. In March 2013, Dese’Rae raised $23,000 to take the project on the road via Kickstarter (link: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/deseraestage/live-through-this-life-on-the-other-side-of-suicid).
She will be visiting several cities across the country to collect the stories of fellow attempt survivors, over 200 of whom have agreed to share. In April 2013, the Associated Press wrote about Live Through This (link: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/more-survivors-suicide-attempts-speak-out) in an article about how attempt survivors are finally being utilized as a resource for prevention.
As for Dese’Rae, she sees herself working on the project indefinitely. “I want to branch out with this as much as possible,” she says. “I have several things in the works, from speaking engagements at universities, to mobile exhibitions and short films, to a book. There are so many different ways to show people that suicide is something we need to pay attention to.”
If you would like to donate to the project, please visit http://livethroughthis.org.
If you would like Dese’Rae to speak about Live Through This at your university or event, please contact Monica Orta at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Live Through This | Stories of Suicide Attempt Survivors from Jakfoto Films on Vimeo.
A clip about the project via ZirZameen, a Persian and English series about underground artists and activists
FreeCounselingHelp.com is America’s only directory connecting people with affordable counseling. There are thousands of non-profit agencies within America that are available to help those with limited means. FreeCounselingHelp.com allows people to quickly search by ZIP code and find the best fit for their mental health needs.
Mentalympians is a mental health community development initiative to raise awareness of mental health recovery, inspire hope, reduce self-stigma, foster recovery and also connect individuals who are interested in campaigning for mental health reform.
I would like to thank Enzymedica’s Tom Bohager for his support. Enzymedica is Florida-based founded in 1998 to offer consumers targeted digestive enzymes products. Considered America’s #1 selling enzyme brand sold by health food store retailers. They also offer a FREE Digestive Enzyme interactive education program that is very helpful in learning the benefits enzymes have on our over all health.
Friend me on Facebook @chato B Stewart.
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