Recently, my photography instructor assigned an agency project to the class. The other students presented work that really reflected their concerns from a small mountain town slowly dying through the loss of small businesses and population; to public schools fighting against closures due to lower student test scores.
I decided to focus on veteran suicide. I’m not the only one who has lost a buddy. One of the problems his suicide presented was doubt in myself, wondering if I just wasn’t a good enough friend, questioning why I was so unapproachable that he just did not think he could talk to me, or any of us.
My agency series was six photographs but I’m only sharing two. These were the hardest two photos in the entire series. The very act of posing with a weapon, even one that I knew was empty, made me nervous. It made me wonder how a person could get to that point, that finality. The hanging scene was the hardest of the two, the hardest of the whole series. My friend chose to end his life by hanging so, when I posed for this photo, it dawned on me how final it could be, and how purposeful his steps were because I did not even want to have the rope near my face for fear of accidentally falling in to it. I’m not intending to sound dramatic, it just unnerved me that much.
Veterans are not the only individuals who deal with suicide. There are many young people spinning in the adolescence vortex, who are bullied, or victimized in so many ways. There are people fighting depression every day. There are individuals who just feel like giving up and feel there is no reason to continue. I want all of us to make an effort to be better, nicer, more forgiving people and not just to those around us but to ourselves as well.