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Eliminating the stigma: suicide attempt survivor sharing her story at UK

Dese'Rae L. Stage, photographer, writer, suicide awarenes advocate and suicide attempt survivor, will visit campus March 12.

PHOTO:
Lexington, Ky.

"Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., 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," writes Dese'Rae L. Stage on her website, www.livethroughthis.org.

Stage — photographer, writer, suicide awareness advocate and suicide attempt survivor — will speak about her public awareness project, Live Through This, and her own experience as a suicide attempt survivor at the University of Kentucky Thursday, March 12.

The event is free and open to the public, and will be from 5:30-7 p.m. in the Hardymon Theater at the Davis Marksbury Building, located off Rose Street.

Live Through This, a collection of portraits and stories of suicide attempt survivors, is a public awareness project created by Stage that encourages survivors to own their experiences publicly, aiming to reduce the silence, shame and stigma associated with suicide attempts. 

Sponsored by several UK colleges and departments, including the Department of Family Sciences, School of Human Environmental Sciences, and Family and Consumer Sciences Extension in the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, as well as the UK Counseling Center, Department of Psychology and UK College of Social Work, the event aims to encourage open dialogue about suicide. 

"It is incredibly important to hear the voices of people who have attempted suicide and survived in order to better understand how to prevent future suicides," said Julie Cerel, associate professor in the UK College of Social Work, licensed psychologist and board chair of the American Association of Suicidology.

Laura Frey, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Family Sciences, initiated the event in relation to her current research on suicide attempt disclosure on college campuses. Frey was awarded an Active Minds Emerging Scholars Fellowship to analyze interviews with suicide attempt survivors about their experiences with suicide disclosure. From her findings, Frey will develop a model that provides information regarding factors that could increase the likelihood for disclosure and the factors that can foster a safe environment to facilitate continued disclosure in the future.

"Suicide stigma prevents us from seeing the human experiences behind each attempt and makes us think that talking about suicide has to be scary," said Frey. "Dese'Rae's work advocating for attempt survivors allows us to learn from real people with real stories, reinforcing the idea that talking about suicide can actually empower and initiate positive change."

Stage and her project Live Through This have been nationally recognized by media and suicide prevention groups, and as of February 2015, she has photographed 115 suicide attempt survivors in 13 U.S. cities.

In addition to her perspective as a suicide attempt survivor, Stage is also trained in suicide prevention. She graduated with a bachelor's in psychology from East Tennessee State University in 2005 and is QPR Gatekeeper trained, which includes how to recognize the warning signs of a suicide crisis and how to question, persuade, and refer someone to help. Stage is also an ASIST-trained caregiver. ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) teaches effective intervention skills while helping to build suicide prevention networks in the community.

Mary Chandler Bolin, director of the UK Counseling Center, is also QPR certified, as a senior master trainer, and instructs the training at UK.

"In the U.S., there is still tremendous stigma around mental health concerns broadly and related to suicide specifically — which silences suicide attempters and those with the potential to intervene," Bolin said.

Contact: 

Whitney Harder, 859-323-2396, whitney.harder@uky.edu

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