Dese'Rae L. Stage

is creating Portraits and Stories of Suicide Attempt Survivors.
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About Dese'Rae L. Stage

Who are you and what is Live Through This?

My name is Dese'Rae L. Stage. I'm a photographer, suicide awareness activist, and writer based in Philadelphia, PA. I'm also a suicide attempt survivor.

Live Through This ( is a collection of the portraits and stories of suicide attempt survivors, as told by those survivors.

I've been attacking the issue of suicide from various angles for the past decade: As a part of my undergraduate studies at East Tennessee State University, I co-authored a self-injury self-report (SISR) measure and helped develop studies on suicide, self-injury, and intimate violence. I'm trained in crisis intervention and even have a bit of experience as a hotline counselor and rape care companion. 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. It happened often enough that I took some time away and thought a lot about coming at it from a different angle—one that would appeal to people at the most basic level: human connection.

When you read that someone attempts suicide every 40 seconds, that someone dies by suicide every 15 minutes, or that it's the 10th leading cause of death in the US, it's pretty easy to move past that without thinking too hard because... well, they're just numbers. Statistics are a way of disseminating difficult information in an easily digestible—and easily forgettable—way. 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. I decided to go to the source: suicide attempt survivors, like myself. The meat of Live Through This comes from talking to other survivors about their experiences with suicide and then, after each interview, making a portrait. Later, I publish that portrait with an excerpt of the survivor's story on the website.

The idea is to level the playing field and minimize discrimination by showing the faces of real people who have attempted to take their lives, but lived instead. What led them to attempt suicide? What happened afterward? Is suicide still an option? What is treatment like? How do they cope?  Live Through This asks the viewer to look into the eyes of the survivors. In doing so, it helps the viewer to realize that these people could be anyone—suicide does not discriminate. It becomes clear that these people have been through hell, but that they are also engaging, fascinating people whose voices deserve to be heard, and whose experiences should be used to change the way we conceptualize mental health, to inform policymaking, to develop training, and more. Hopefully, these realizations help foster a sense of empathy—even in those who have a hard time understanding because they've never been there. The honesty of these portraits and stories empowers the viewer to set their fears aside and to talk about it, most especially if there is any fear that a loved one might be suicidal.

Live Through This is the first known project of its kind, exploring a world that has remained a taboo for far too long. It strips the issue of anonymity and encourages survivors to own their experiences publicly and proudly. 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.

Why do you need funding?

As of today (12/21/17), I have interviewed and photographed 182 attempt survivors in 35 US cities, from Florida to Alaska and places in between—and I have no intention of stopping anytime soon. Each one of these stories takes approximately 20 hours to produce (not including travel time), from the time I sit down to talk with the survivor, to making the portrait, to editing the portrait, to having the interview transcribed, to curating and editing the portion of the story I intend to publish, to formatting the photo/text for the web, to publishing it. With the exception of my wonderful transcriptionists, I do this work alone. 

Collecting stories across the country requires funding for travel (I sleep on friends' couches wherever possible). Gear occasionally needs to be upgraded. Registration fees for academic/professional conferences need to be handled. Cloud storage/backups. Web maintenance. In short, it requires more to maintain than I can give on my own.

Every dollar donated goes right back into the project, and is much appreciated by myself, the folks who send me emails every day urging me to keep going, the attempt survivors who have shared their stories, and the ones who still want to share their stories.  

How does Patreon work?

Patreon lets you become a patron of your favorite artists and creators. Unlike other fundraising services that raise for one large goal, Patreon helps fund creators on a monthly basis! As a patron and fan, YOU support the artists and creators you care the most about. YOU interact with them directly via their activity feed. YOU get rewarded for supporting their work.

How do you pledge support?

It's easy! Put any amount in the box above, enter your details, and your credit card or PayPal account will be charged that amount once monthly. Please note that by supporting me on Patreon, you are NOT paying for the work, you are simply supporting its creation (and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for even considering it). Every dollar counts.

Press for Live Through This

LTT has seen a lot of press since 2013! I guess that means we're doing something right! Take a look:

Suicide Prevention Sheds a Longstanding Taboo: Talking About Attempts (The New York Times)
Suicide Attempt Survivors Seek A Voice In Helping Others At Risk (NPR)
Suicide Survivors Help to Shape Prevention Efforts (Associated Press)
Faces of Survival: A Photographer Converts Self-Destruction Into Strength (Curve)
A Woman Lived Through Something Awful. Now She’s Helping Others Do The Same. (Upworthy)
How Can We Talk About Surviving Suicide? (Bitch Magazine)
They All Tried to Take Their Own Lives. Now They’re Speaking Up. (The Mighty)
Suicide: Why it Happens, How to Prevent (Fox 7 Austin)
Brooklyn-Based Photographer Uncovers Lives Of Suicide Attempt Survivors (BUST Magazine)
People Who Attempt Suicide Are Not Criminals (DAME)
Understanding Suicide, Which is Surprisingly Common in Spring (The Washington Post)
Suicide Attempt Survivors Go Public in Hope of Aiding Many at Risk (Boston Globe)
This Unique Attempt At Suicide Prevention Is Also Totally Beautiful (Upworthy)

Are you a suicide attempt survivor? Want to tell your story? Click here.

$137 of $500 per month
When I reach $500 a month, I'll be able to cover the bare bones cost of overhead for the project without having to pay out of pocket.
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