Funded! This project was successfully funded on March 21, 2013.

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

WE MADE IT!

Thank you so much to everyone who contributed financially or behind the scenes, who shared and shared and shared, and who cared about helping me make this thing a reality. My mind is blown. I'm ecstatic and so grateful. I want to hug all of you.

Stretch Goals:

Now that we've reached the initial funding goal, we can work toward the stretch goals! I have two in mind:

1. If we reach $22,683, I can bring in a filmmaker for one day of footage in each city I visit. This will work two different kinds of magic:

a). I can keep you all updated with a short video from every city! It's like postcards from the road, but with less mailbox! I love the idea of collaborating with different filmmakers to bring you some behind the scenes action.

b). I'll be accumulating footage along the way, which will [eventually] help me put together the documentary I occasionally reference wanting to make (always in the hushiest of hushed tones).

2. If we reach $25,000, I can have the website redesigned! With a more responsive design (optimized for all browsers and mobile devices), I can start to incorporate larger images and multi-media content, like video and audio in a more user-friendly, visually appealing way.

Stretch Rewards:

1. A 5x7" print (of my choice) for anyone who raises their pledge amount to $35 or more.
2. An 8x10" print for anyone who raises their pledge to $100 or more.
3. Raise your pledge to $250 or more and I'll give you the stencil for a LTT tattoo (the entire logo, a single swallow, or BOTH swallows—I plan on having a swallow tattooed on each of my feet this summer) AND I'll go with you to get it/hold your hand, provided you're in one of the cities I'll be traveling to (maybe I'll even get something to commemorate the event, myself).

To be clear, these stretch rewards are in addition to the original rewards. I'll also include these stretch rewards for new pledges at these reward tiers!

Introduction:

My name is Dese'Rae L. Stage. I'm a photographer based in Brooklyn. I'm a suicide attempt survivor.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US, and that number is on the rise. Suicide is a side-effect of mental illness. Mental illness is so thoroughly stigmatized in this country that many of us who live with it also live with an impenetrable sense of shame over it, which leads to a fear of talking about it openly. Many of those who don't live with it live in fear of it, and that leads down a similar path.

I'm convinced that it's possible to curb the loss of life to suicide, and I think the easiest way to start doing that is for all of us (not just the specialists) to learn to talk about it instead of being fearful of it. Enter Live Through This.

What is Live Through This?

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 field of psychology. I have plenty of stories of doors closing in my face the moment I mentioned the word "suicide." 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.

When you read that someone attempts suicide every 40 seconds in the US, it's pretty easy to move past that without thinking about how each of those people might be suffering, because... well, they're just numbers. Statistics are a way of disseminating difficult information in an easily digestible—and easily forgettable—way. Eventually, it occurred to me that an artful, humanistic document of the insider 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. 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 humanize suicide by showing the faces of real people who have attempted to take their lives, but lived instead. Live Through This asks the viewer to look into the eyes of the survivors, and in doing so, it helps the viewer to realize that these people could be anyone. In reading their stories, it becomes clear that these people have been through hell, but that they are also engaging, fascinating people whose voices deserve to be heard. Hopefully, that pair of realizations helps foster a sense of empathy—even in those who have a hard time understanding mental illness and suicide. The honesty of these portraits and stories empowers the viewer to set their fears aside, 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.

The next step, and why YOU'RE here:

I've made thirteen portraits in the New York area so far. I've gotten supportive emails from attempt survivors, from family members of those who lost their lives to suicide, and from people who were nearly driven to attempting. Something about this is resonating with people.

In order to really get a sense of the depth and breadth of suicide and who it affects, I've decided to take the project to the national level. I've been contacted by survivors all over the country who would like to share their stories. Thus far, the project has been funded directly from my own pocket, which results in slower progress than I'd like, and that's why I'm asking for your help.

With funds raised from this campaign, I'll be able to collect stories and make portraits of survivors in the following cities*: San Francisco, CA (tentatively scheduled for 4/14/13-4/19/13); Los Angeles, CA; Portland, OR; Eugene, OR; Seattle, WA; Minneapolis, MN; Chicago, IL; Boston, MA; Philadelphia, PA; Alexandria, VA; Washington, DC; Norfolk, VA; Raleigh, NC; Orlando, FL; Miami, FL; and Austin, TX.

When all is said and done, I hope to have enough material to start putting a book together, but that's a whole different Kickstarter campaign!

*If you live in/near any of these cities and would like to share your story, please email me at des@livethroughthis.org.

What the funds will go toward:

+ Travel, accommodations, transport, and meals in each city (51%)
+ Gear (10%)
+ Backer reward production, fulfillment, and postage (17%)
+ Web hosting and maintenance (2%)
+ Contingency & fees (20%—Kickstarter and Amazon charge fees to the tune of nearly 10% of the total funding goal, so I included those in the budget)

What is the end goal?

The portraits and stories are the main product of Live Through This, and in funding this project, you're giving me the ability to reach the survivors I currently cannot. The website is the vehicle for the project, and the accessibility of that is incredibly important. The main goal is to have it seen and contributed to by as many people as possible. 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 the long run, I'm hoping to: 1). publish a book, 2). create various larger scale exhibitions, like 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, and 3). create a documentary with footage captured in the making of the project.

Press & Blogger Love:

This Unique Attempt At Suicide Prevention Is Also Totally Beautiful (Upworthy)
‘Her ulterior motive is to keep me alive’ (American Association of Suicidology Attempt Survivor Blog)
10 Kickstarter Projects that Deserve Your Money (HEAVY)
Advancing Peer Support in Suicide Prevention (Suicide Prevention Resource Center's Director's Blog)
ETSU alumna champions education to better suicide prevention (East Tennessean)
Live Through This: Suicide Photography (Resource Magazine)
Learning to Live Through This (Lillian Cohen-Moore)
Kickstarter Funding for Important Mental Health Campaigns (Snailbird)
Dese'Rae L. Stage's "Live Through This" Kickstarter (the improvised life)
The Feature//Live Through This (Rose Runs Wild)
For Good: Live Through This | Life on the Other Side of Suicide (Jakfoto Films)

Reward details (and caveats):

Postcards from the Road: A project within a project! As I travel, I'll make images on the road. I'll pick my favorite image from each city, and send it to you with a note (maybe about the image, or an experience I had in that city) via Postcardly. There are two tiers to this reward: anyone who donates at a level of $100 or less and chooses a reward that includes Postcards from the Road will get three, from cities of my choice; anyone who donates at the $250 or above levels will get a postcard from every city I visit.

Prints: If you'll be receiving a print from me, you'll have the opportunity to choose from anything in my catalog. All prints will be signed.

T-shirt & tote bag design mockups:

Meet & Greet: This particular reward is only for backers in the cities listed above. In addition to all of the rewards you'd receive at the $50 level, you'll be invited to a backers-only Meet & Greet with me when I make it to your town. I will also hand deliver a super-secret LTT trinket to you at the M&G. This trinket is exclusive to M&G events and will not be included at any other reward level.

Photo Walk: We meet at a location of YOUR CHOICE, either in NYC or in one of the cities I visit, and we walk and talk and make photos together for an hour. Bring your camera, and ask any questions you'd like about how to make photos like a professional, or whatever else, really. When all is said and done, I'll send you an 8x10" signed print (of my choice) of an image I made on our walk. **Please choose this reward ONLY if you are in/near New York City, one of the cities listed above, or are willing to travel**

Portraits: If you back the project at the $1,000 level, you're entitled to a portrait session for 1-2 people (couples, headshots, etc.), which includes a 1.5 hour shoot and a disc of retouched images. This reward can be gifted to a friend or loved one. **Please choose this reward ONLY if you are in/near New York City, one of the cities listed above, or are willing to travel**

Wedding: If you back the project at the $7,500 level, I'll shoot your wedding (or an event of equivalent value)! This includes 7 hours of concurrent coverage, 40 hours of post-processing, an online slideshow to share with friends and family, a private proofing gallery/print service, and a DVD containing hi-res, processed “best of the best” digital negatives delivered on your one year anniversary. Travel, lodging, and equipment rentals not included. This reward can be gifted to a friend or loved one.

What happens if I don't raise all of the funds?

Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing platform. If the funding goal isn't reached, the project suffers and we're all sad. That said, if this is something you care about, please, please donate (even a single dollar will work—every bit helps!) and share this link with everyone you know in every way you possibly can.

Thank you so much for reading, considering, and hopefully, backing. Your support means the world to me. If you want to watch things progress, feel free to follow on Twitter or like the project on Facebook. You can also follow me on Twitter or even add me as a friend on Facebook.

A note about the video:

After watching, you might wonder whether Live Through This is targeted toward Caucasians in the 18-35 age group. The intention is not to focus on any one group; however, the portraits thus far are reflective of some of the information we know about suicide, which is that a). Native Americans are the racial group with the highest rate of death by suicide, followed closely by Caucasians, and b). suicide is the third leading cause of death for Americans aged 15-24. The population visible in the video (and the project) is likely due to what I'm seeing as my biggest limitation so far: access. Most of the people who have shared their stories with me have been found either in my personal life, via word of mouth, or through Craigslist. As word about the project filters through different channels, however, I'll be able to connect with all manner of people and, subsequently, experiences. Suicide affects everyone, regardless of age, race, or creed, and I would like for Live Through This to reflect that. Having the ability to expand it with funds raised here will help me to do just that.

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

I've been very careful to choose and budget for backer rewards that I could successfully produce and fulfill on my own. I'm running a small operation, so most of the reward fulfillment will come directly from me. If it happens to end up that the support for this project is overwhelming, I can call in my small army of awesome (and supportive) friends to help. All merch-based rewards (with the exception of Postcards from the Road) should be shipped by the end of the summer, at the latest.

Postcards from the Road, Meet & Greets, and service-based rewards (photo walk, portraits, wedding) each come with unique challenges. Because I have a day job, most LTT-related trips will be made separately over the course of a year or so. This means that, if you'll be receiving Postcards from the Road, it may take that long to receive the complete collection. If you're planning to attend a Meet & Greet, I will let you know well in advance of my arrival in your city, as well as the intended date and venue. If you choose a service-based reward, we will need to be in close contact to coordinate our schedules. Again, however, these trips will be spread out over a longer period of time, so patience is of the utmost importance.

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