Liberal High School students work with local phtographer Stephanie Ormiston on a project to help prevent suicides. September is Suicide Prevention Month. L&T photo/Earl Watt
By EARL WATT
• Leader & Times
In moments of helplessness, embarrassment or depression, suicide may seem like the best way out of a bad situation.
There are resources for those that reach this low place, and there are ways to prevent suicide. Whispers and Wishes Photography owner Stephanie Ormiston reached out to Liberal High School to work together on a project that will help raise awareness about suicide and what resources are available to help prevent it.
Wearing shirts with encouraging words on the front and demeaning ones on the back, students gathered in Liberal High School’s commons area to create video and photos that will be used in a prevention campaign locally.
The students also held signs showing statistics of just how many suicides take place, but they also had signs sharing phone numbers to local help centers and a national hotline to help prevent suicide.
Ormiston came up with the idea because she has felt the sting of losing loved ones to suicide.
“When I first started photography, I wanted to document people’s lives just in case it wasn’t a life they expected or it ended early,” she said. “Several of my close friends in high school and one in college committed suicide. So I didn’t go through that for no reason, I wanted to share my story and hopefully it can help at least one person.”
World famous comedic actor Robin Williams recently committed suicide, and it has left confusion and grief because of the lack of understanding of what causes a person to take their own life.
Trying to recognize the signs is critical, but also recognizing behaviors that can lead a person to suicide is helpful, especially in a school setting. Bullying has caused many to contemplate suicide, and some have followed through, leaving grieving family and friends, and that is what Ormiston is hoping to prevent.
“I had an amazing support system,” she said after dealing with the loss of friends. “Although I had the best support, it was still difficult. What has really helped me is hearing from people that you think their life is perfect, and knowing they shared hardship, that helped me.”
Suicide is not limited to a certain group. Those in difficult financial conditions and those with wealth have fallen victim to suicide. Those in what appear to be happy marriages have committed suicide as well as those who have gone through break-ups.
According to the World Health Organization, about 1 million worldwide commit suicide each year.
No community is immune, and Ormiston wanted to bring the message to Liberal during Suicide Prevention Month.
“I wanted it to be local and hit home in a community I am going to be a part of,” she said. “So I called (LHS counselor) Mariah Cline to see if anyone in the school would be interested. I honestly didn’t think we would get anybody. I was in tears when I found out this many people wanted to participate.”
With students willing to volunteer, Ormiston worked with Cline to create a photo shoot, and the LHS media department was also on hand to capture video to create a public service message on their local cable channel.
Ormiston also found local organizations that helped provide the shirts.
“With the shirts, I wanted people to remember that the things people have said about them, the negative things, to put those behind them, so that is why we put those on the back of the shirt,” Ormiston said. “The positive things they feel about themselves I wanted those on the front of the shirt, because those are the things that will take them forward in life.”