Years after her suicide attempt, Dese'Rae L. Stage Googled "suicide survivor." "What I found," she shares on her website, "was people who had lost someone they loved, not people like me, who had tried to die and lived instead — people who were confused about what happened next, who felt so much shame that they couldn't talk about what had happened to them, people who felt misunderstood and alone."
Stage knew firsthand that isolation could be deadly. "I was diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder in 2004," she writes. "I'm also a survivor of nine years of self-injury and a suicide attempt catalysed by an emotionally and physically abusive relationship." Stage was compelled to action not only by her own struggle with mental illness and self-harm, she says, but also by the loss of friends to suicide and the egregious lack of resources available to suicide-attempt survivors in this country. So, as a self-taught photographer, Stage created the multimedia storytelling project Live Through This, which draws suicide-attempt survivors out from under our culture's shroud of anonymity and encourages them to share their experiences — with faces and names attached. The project also aims to raise awareness of the "basic tenet of suicide prevention," which is: "If you're afraid a loved one might be suicidal, ASK."
As Stage points out, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. What's more, it's the only one of the top 10 causes of death that increased from 2011 to 2012. Today, life expectancy is higher than it's ever been, but the suicide rate is on the rise — perhaps indicating that our country's mental-health management is lagging behind the rest of medicine. Dismantling the stigma around suicide is a literal matter of life and death for tens of thousands of people: Some 40,000 Americans die by suicide every year. With Live Through This, Stage provides a platform for the people behind these numbers and amplifies the stories — the devastating, diverse, uplifting, uncertain, hopeful, despairing, healing stories — of those who have survived attempted suicide. Click through to meet 15 of these individuals.