HELENA – Two women are using photography to tell the stories of Montanans impacted by suicide and bring awareness to the epidemic.
“Aftermath” is currently on display at the Holter Museum of Art in Helena.
Photographer Nicole Stroman and Jamie Eastwood, the executive director of “Breathe (let’s start a conversation)“, worked on the project over the course of two and a half years. Both women have been affected by suicide, each in different ways.
For “Aftermath,” they took photos of and interviewed about 25 people from Helena and East Helena, who volunteered to tell their stories.
They said they hope the project shows anyone can be affected by suicide and sparks a conversation people need to have with one another, even if it is uncomfortable.
“The best compliment is when I hear, when I’m out and about, and someone says, ‘I saw your exhibit, and I went home and I talked to my kids about it,’” said Stroman. “Or ‘I saw the look in my neighbor’s face that I saw on the walls of the Holter, and I went over and talked to them.’ That’s what we want, and if we can help just one person, job done.”
The project also shares participants’ interview answers and has an area where people can share their own experiences and messages for others.
Both women, whose portraits are also included in the exhibit, said the process of creating “Aftermath” was educational for them.
“I just thought, if this happened 25 years ago you should be over it,” said Stroman. “And we would have somebody come in and talk about their loved one they lost, and it’s as if it happened yesterday, so that was really surprising.”
“Folks are extremely resilient,” said Eastwood. “And that’s probably the coolest thing, because about half of these people have lost somebody, and then some of them have attempted themselves, and are still here. The fact these people were left in the aftermath, and they’re continuing on, is pretty cool.”
“Aftermath” will be at Holter until June 24th, but both women said they want to continue the project. There is also a panel discussion for families happening on May 29th.
If you have been impacted by suicide and want to share your story, you can reach Stroman and Eastwood at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit their Facebook page.
If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. It’s open 24/7.
Story by Evelyn Schultz, MTN News