I have been running around like a crazy person!

The past two weeks have been incredible! I collected 11 stories in Boston, where I stayed in a giant brownstone that my friends at the Neurocognition of Language Lab (who were in town for a conference) were gracious enough to let me work out of. After that, I was home for an eventful day, where there was a secret photo shoot (secret then, anyway) and I photographed Martina McBride for an intimate show to promote her new album, Everlasting.

Michael Appleton photographs Dese'Rae L. Stage for the New York Times

Secret photo shoot!

Martina McBride

Martina McBride

I flew out to LA the next day for the 47th annual conference of the American Association of Suicidology (AAS). That was a doozy.

The first day, the AAS announced that they’d created a new sixth division for suicide attempt survivors and those with lived experience of suicidal thoughts. There was quite a bit of lobbying behind the scenes to make this happen, and I’m so glad it did. It’s one step toward busting stigma and having our voices heard in terms of our treatment, among other things.

They also announced the creation of a national Speakers Bureau, on which I was chosen as an inaugural member of the lived experience division! All the while, the social media team was hard at work creating content. That was exciting, exhausting, and so much fun—we were all fast friends.

And the panel… mind blowing. It’s hard to describe what happened in that room. The four of us (myself, Samantha Nadler, Misha Kessler, and Craig Miller) sat up in front, with our backs to the audience. I was sitting next to Samantha. She’d turn around every few minutes to see more and more people in the room, and she’d smack me on the leg and say something like, “Holy crap!” I was too nervous to look. Eventually, the room was packed—standing room only.

I went first. I’d just finished my talk the night before and I was so nervous that I shook the entire time I was speaking, but I felt (and feel) really good about it. LTT portraits were cycling through the entire session, and we all got standing ovations in the end. People hooted and hollered for us like they were at a concert, which you’ll get to experience if you listen to the audio or watch the video (below). By the end, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. The feeling that we were finally being heard in a place we hadn’t been heard before, that there was solidarity there, and that we’d just made history, was palpable. I still get the chills when I think about it.

Lisa Klein and Doug Blush (Madpix), the makers of Of Two Minds, a fantastic documentary about bipolar disorder, spent a good amount of time chasing us around for a new documentary on survivors of suicide (loss and attempt survivors alike), too. They were kind enough to film the panel for us.

Somewhere in the middle of all the madness, I went to Van Nuys to record an episode of Mental Illness Happy Hour with Paul Gilmartin. That man is a force, and an intense prober of minds. I’m excited to hear the episode, but it isn’t likely to be out for a long while.

The last couple of days I was in LA, I collected another 7 stories (bringing the grand total to 85 so far). Here’s a video of a portion of Shayda Kafai’s interview. We spent a lot of time talking about semantics.

The day I got home, magic happened. The New York Times published an article about the momentum the attempt survivor movement is gaining, and I got to be their cover girl. Carey identifies the ways in which the system fails attempt survivors, how we have historically been silenced, and some of the ways in which we’re pushing back. It’s a great start, but not perfect, by any means.

There are a few problematic issues where the article is concerned:

  1. Describing the methodology of a suicide attempt can be dangerous. Usually, it’s sensationalistic and unproductive.
  2. Use of the word “commit” comes with some pretty hefty implications. More objective language (e.g. “John Doe died by suicide”) better serves to reduce stigma.
  3. It’s always a good idea to include some information on warning signs and/or resources at the end of the piece.

The SPRC has set forth some great guidelines for media reporting on suicide here. Worth having a look at, especially if you’re interested in writing on the topic.

You’ll notice that my method was published (inaccurately, I might mention). I did specifically request that this information not be included, only to be told that I’d be pulled if I didn’t ‘disclose.’ I approved hesitantly after a bit of editing—we worked together to get a little closer to language that was less ‘dark and stormy’—and tried to remember that it’s not about me, that it’s about the movement and that it would shine a light on the project.

Luckily, it has, and for that I’m grateful, but I’ve learned a big lesson about disclosure in the media and how, even if the goal is a positive one, any piece still needs a hook. As it stands, the media shares gory details because they catch our attention. I want other things to be more interesting to us as readers. Who cares how I tried to die? What about what led me down that path? What about the people who saved me and what happened next?

Personal misgivings aside, Carey was very informative in his writing and really gave us a huge platform to spread the word and raise awareness. On that note, it’s so wonderful to share that platform with people like Heidi Bryan, Leah Harris, John Draper, and Eduardo Vega, who have been out there working tirelessly to fight indifference to, or hostility against, attempt survivors for years. They blazed a trail for me to follow, and I feel lucky to even be included. Things are finally changing and this article is proof.

There’s also been a bit of coverage in the Washington Post and Association Now, if you want to take a look.

The other night, after I got home from LA, my girlfriend and I sat down with a couple glasses of wine and we toasted to one another’s recent successes. I’m paraphrasing, but she said something like, “This moment is important, but what’s more important is that you kept going way back when, when so few people cared, but when you knew and believed that the project was so important that you couldn’t stop, even when it felt lonely.”

This feels like a pivotal moment for the project (and the movement on the whole), and I want to thank all of the many, many people who have supported me thus far. Thanks to: every single person who has shared their story and their voice to help break the silence; Michelle and Bonnie Crawford-Bewley for lending me the money to buy a proper camera with which to do the damn thing; Lisa Lombardo for guidance; Felicidad Garcia for inspiration, patience, constant volleying of ideas, and more guidance; Helen Hedberg and Cat Downs for hours and hours of interview transcription; Monica Orta for her mad management skillz; Emily Lupsor for PR help; Lisa Klein for believing/poking/prodding and caring enough to make a film about it all; April Foreman, Bill Schmitz, Jr., Cara Anna, and Leah Harris for mentoring me (even though the party’s just getting started); Paul and Tom at Postcardly; Austin at Print Peppermint; my fellow panelists at AAS (Samantha Nadler, Misha Kessler, Craig Miller); my social media team buddies from AAS (Tony Wood, Ursula Whiteside, Keris Myrick, Quintin Hunt); every single one of the people who supported and/or promoted the Kickstarter campaign in any way; and anyone else I may have left out because I’m exhausted.

Live Through This is on the Move!

I’ve been doing a lot of behind the scenes work on Live Through This lately, so the blog has been pretty neglected (I’m sorry—I owe you a picture or two of Lorde from her Roseland Ballroom show a couple of weeks ago). Here’s why:

I’ll be in Boston from April 5th through 7th, and I’ll be in Los Angeles from the 9th through the 14th. Between the two cities, I’ll be collecting the stories and portraits of 20 suicide attempt survivors.

Lots happening while I’m in LA! I’ll be at the American Association of Suicidology‘s annual conference, both as a member of the Social Media Team (this is the reason for the memes I’ve been posting on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram lately, if you follow me and were curious) AND as a member of a lived experience panel entitled Can You Hear Me Now? New Voices of Attempt Survivors. This is pretty exciting, because I get to talk to the nation’s top professionals in the mental health field about Live Through This and what it’s been like to work with and connect a community of suicide attempt survivors to one another. Oh, and I should also mention that I’ll be recording an episode of Mental Illness Happy Hour with Paul Gilmartin while I’m there, too.

One more thing before I go: On March 12th, while in the middle of the Most Terrible Stomach Flu to Ever Exist, I told the story of my own suicide attempt and how I moved from pursuing suicide awareness in academia to doing so using art as my vehicle for the Mental Health edition of the Story Collider. Aleksandar Cosic caught the whole thing on video for your viewing pleasure.

Carmen + Adam | New York City Wedding Photographer

Carmen and Adam’s wedding at New York City’s Studio 450 was very much a DIY affair with fantastic details. The afternoon light filtered in with a pink hue and made everything look magical. And when it got dark? The best dance party ever! What a blast!

Want me to shoot your wedding? Head on over to we are for each other for more information!

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer Dese'Rae L. Stage

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer Dese'Rae L. Stage

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer Dese'Rae L. Stage

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer Dese'Rae L. Stage

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

Carmen + Adam's NYC at Studio 450 in Chelsea, by New York City Wedding Photographer we are for each other

One Shot | Live Through This in Austin, TX

Back in November, I took Live Through This to Austin, TX to collect stories. Here’s an outtake from Natasha’s shoot at HausBar Farms.

Natasha's portrait session for Live Through This in Austin, TX

If you’re feeling suicidal, please talk to somebody. You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. If you’re not in the U.S., click here for a link to crisis centers around the world.

Throwback Thursday: Mike Rosenberg of Passenger | New York City Concert Photography

Back in the summer of 2008, I had the chance to chat with Mike Rosenberg (of Brighton band Passenger) for the now-defunct music blog, PopWreckoning. As we sat on a park bench in New York’s Lower East Side amidst the chaos of screaming children and a four piece creole jazz band playing their hearts out on a nearby street corner, we discussed the DIY nature of busking, the intimacy of writing partnerships, and the importance of lyrics. Mike was touring for Wicked Man’s Rest at the time. I caught a couple of his shows then, but lost track of things over the years. I was thrilled to discover (in Cambodia, no less) that his new album, All the Little Lights, has gotten much acclaim. Interview below.

Mike Rosenberg of Passenger at Webster Hall, CMJ Music Festival, New York City, 10/24/08

Mike Rosenberg (Passenger) plays a CMJ showcase at Webster Hall, New York City, 10/24/08

Me: What was the origin of the band name Passenger?

Mike Rosenberg: I think it kind of started with my writing, this sort of observational theme, telling stories within our songs. And the idea is kind of maybe someone sitting in a passenger seat of a car and watching the world go by and everyone has a story to tell, whether it be an old alcoholic man or a stray dog or a stalker.

Me: Who are your influences?

MR: I grew up listening to a lot of Neil Young, Van Morrison, and Graham Parsons. People like that. I listen to Beirut, Iron and Wine, Calexico, Bonnie Prince Billy, all sorts of things. I’ve gotten into hip hop, as well.

Me: I could tell you were into hip hop with Wicked Man’s Rest.

MR: I think the way I write my lyrics sometimes, yeah. Especially the newer stuff that’s coming out on the second album has got much more of that kind of feel to it.

Me: You’re already working on a second album?

MR: It’s written. This came out a year ago in the UK. So yeah, there’s much more of that to come.

Me: “Wicked Man’s Rest” samples Allen Ginsberg performing “A Supermarket in California.” Where’d that come from?

MR: The guy I write songs with, Andrew [Phillips], did his master’s in English, specifically in American poetry. I think it really works. It’s such a confused song and that sort of consumeristic panic really mixes in nicely, I think.

Me: How are the audiences here receiving your stuff in comparison to back home?

MR: Generally, really well. The reaction over here has been great. I think, in America, I might be wrong, but it kinda feels like there’s a long tradition of this kind of music. You know, acoustic guitars and harmonies and lyrics. People really care about lyrics here. A lot of people have been asking me about the lyrics, which is really great because I care about lyrics. And so much music today, it doesn’t seem to be a priority at all. And I just think words put to music is such a powerful thing and if you have the opportunity to do that, don’t waste it just by writing stuff that rhymes. So I’m really thankful for people actually taking the time to concentrate on what I’m saying. I think that’s been a bit of a difference. I think England’s a really difficult market because it’s small and very trend-driven. And if you haven’t got the right jeans and the right haircut, it’s a bit of a problem, to be honest. I think there’s an element to every scene like that, but there seems to be a gap in the market here.

Me: So you’re doing a busking tour. Where did that idea come from?

MR: We’ve been busking for the last six months or so. I think it just came from the weather getting better. Just the idea of not sitting on your ass and hoping it’ll happen. Being able to do something yourself. Not relying on an agent and a whole team of people, which you need to do the gigs and to do loads of stuff, but actually busking, you can book a bus ticket and you can book a youth hostel and bring your guitar and an amp. It’s not hard. We started doing that in England and we’ve been all over the place. Up in Scotland and Manchester, along the south coast. It’s been so much fun. You meet so many people. It’s such a personal way of getting your music across. And we’ve sold over a thousand CDs doing it. It’s just a really human thing to do. Playing music, you can become quite adrift from what you’re doing. It really brings you back down to earth and makes you realize what you want from music.

Me: I was under the impression that it was just you and Andrew at first, but now it’s a five piece?

MR: Well, it’s a long story. Me and Andrew write the songs. He was in the live band for awhile. He’s got two small kids, so we actually changed the band about eight months ago when we started traveling and got three new members. Now I travel around with Steven a lot. He’s the guitarist. So it’s cool. I still do all the recording and writing with Andrew, but the live band’s kind of a separate thing now. It works. He’s [Andrew] a bit older—he’s like 43—so it’s like, when I’m 43, I don’t want to be lugging amps out of some basement in Williamsburg, I want to be home with my kids watching them grow up.

Me: I’m assuming that Andrew did all the producing. The album has this ethereal feel about it. Is that him or the pair of you? How does the songwriting dynamic work between the two of you?

MR: He’s done loads of music for film and documentaries and TV. That’s been his main line of work for the last twenty years, so there’s definitely that sort of cinematic, big feel about it. As far as the writing goes, the lyrics are pretty much all mine. Most of the production ideas are his and we work on the music together. Sometimes I come to him with a song and we rearrange it and work on it. I’ve been writing with him for about five years and it’s amazing to have someone you totally trust, not just musically, but generally. You trust their taste and opinion in everything. He’s heard hundreds of my songs and knows when I’m taking shortcuts or could do a bit better or have rushed it or whatever. It’s amazing to have that.

Me: He can tell you straight out and it’s not gonna upset you.

MR: Yeah. Writing partnerships are such a…writing is such a personal thing. It’s cliché to say it, but it’s the most real part of you, and to share that wholeheartedly with someone is an amazing feeling. It’s really, really good.

Me: I don’t know if you have any formal training in writing, but one of the mantras repeated in creative writing classes is: “Show, don’t tell.” Your songs definitely give concrete visuals. How did that come about?

MR: I don’t know. I’m rubbish at spelling. I’m dyslexic, I think. I’ve not been good at school. I just started writing songs when I was fourteen and they were really bad. You just learn over time what you do uniquely and you learn to focus in on that so it doesn’t sound generic and so it’s something unique and really honest. I think that’s what really annoys me about music and that’s why I don’t like a certain band, when I don’t think it’s honest. I think it’s kind of put on and contrived. I can’t stand that. It’s boring.

Me: So, I’ve been listening. I tried to make relevant comparisons because everyone likes to do that, and I failed. How does it feel—is it scary to be peddling a new brand of pop music?

MR: No, it’s really exciting. I’m really happy you said that, because when I get asked what kind of music we do, I still haven’t got an answer. I’ve been doing it for years and I still can’t say, “Oh, it’s like this.” Which is sometimes problematic because people can’t just put it in a box and, “Oh, right it’s this and I like this.” Do you know what I mean? Sometimes I’ve been frustrated by it, but ultimately I’m delighted that it’s different and unique. I think it affects people and I think, even if you don’t like the music, I think people can see that it’s different. Hopefully. Some people just think we sound like James Blunt. I think it’s a really lazy comparison.

Me: What are you listening to right now?

MR: I just got the Fleet Foxes album, which I like a lot; Bon Iver; Bonnie Prince Billy’s new album, which is okay.

Me: Last question: if you were headlining your dream tour, who would be supporting you?

MR: Alive or dead? I don’t know why, but Otis Redding, although everyone would see him and just be disgusted by us.