A pro­ject to cel­e­brate the lives of loved ones lost

The Spec­ta­tor is or­ga­niz­ing a pho­tog­ra­phy pro­ject for fam­i­lies who have had a mem­ber die by sui­cide

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - SU­SAN CLAIRMONT

It is both sad and hope­ful that so many of you want to share your sto­ries of loved ones who have died by sui­cide.

I was deeply touched by the dozens of read­ers who reached out to me af­ter the long story I wrote re­cently about Nicole Pate­naude, 20, who jumped off a Hwy. 403 over­pass and died.

Her fam­ily’s fierce pro­nounce­ment

that there is no shame in men­tal ill­ness or sui­cide in­spired many to speak up.

One woman, whose sis­ter died by sui­cide, wrote to say: “We have tried as a fam­ily to keep it out of the me­dia. But at this time, we now feel it is so very im­por­tant to tell my sis­ter’s story.”

Another reader, who re­cently lost a friend, said: “Nicole’s story

and the love, strength and courage of her fam­ily will res­onate with many peo­ple. I only hope it cre­ates some com­pas­sion in those who need it.”

“Thank you for writ­ing this to put light on the sit­u­a­tion,” wrote a woman who lost both par­ents to sui­cide. “I so ap­pre­ci­ate Nicole’s fam­ily’s can­dour and brav­ery at shar­ing this story. I know how hard

that can be more than most.”

Re­sponses like th­ese have led to a special Hamil­ton Spec­ta­tor photo pro­ject that of­fers read­ers a way to share those sto­ries and con­tinue the con­ver­sa­tion. Called Left Be­hind, it will be a col­lec­tion of por­traits of peo­ple af­fected by sui­cide.

The por­traits will be shot by my col­league, pho­to­jour­nal­ist Gary Yokoyama. He is set­ting up a stu­dio in The Spec’s au­di­to­rium and we are invit­ing any­one who has lost some­one to sui­cide to sit for a por­trait this week. I will be there too. You need to bring a photo of the per­son you have lost (the big­ger, the bet­ter, so it will be vis­i­ble in the por­trait) and an item that be­longed to that per­son. Please also bring a 50word cap­tion which should in­clude the name of the per­son, their age and an ex­pla­na­tion of the sig­nif­i­cance of the item you have cho­sen.

One reader plans to bring a pair of danc­ing shoes her sis­ter bought, but never had a chance to wear.

The pho­tos, which will be pub­lished in The Spec­ta­tor, are in­tended to cel­e­brate lives more than deaths.

While the vol­ume of sto­ries that have been shared with me and the pain they will al­ways cause makes me sad, the very fact that so many of you are ea­ger to talk about it in an ef­fort to break down the stigma, gives me great hope.

Su­san Clairmont’s commentary ap­pears reg­u­larly in The Spec­ta­tor. sclair­mont@thes­pec.com 905-526-3539 | @su­san­clair­mont

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