Postvention - Media

Does seeing a victim's face cause healing or harm? For me - a loss survivor - I feel that Putting a Face on Suicide has been a healing outreach overall, though as I type this I am fully aware that my feeling is not based in fact.

When I first found PAFOS and brought the project to my town there was quite a wide mix of reactions. To be clear, we did not simply feature faces, names, and ages. We included the specific illness that the victim had when they died, common symptoms of those illnesses, and included 7 signs of suicide on each 3' x 6' banner. 

In 2013 a group of individuals, nonprofits, and public agencies decided to join with PAFOS in creating a bus bench and banner campa

People who were loss survivors tended to feel the way I felt - relieved that our loved ones' illnesses were finally being placed before the public eye. People who had family members who live with severe mental illness were also in favor.

Several attempt survivors felt that showing the faces of the dead was too much of a reminder of what they think about all too often. Some of them felt that the faces reminded them of why they are in recovery. After a few months we  - our local NAMI - decided to take the banners down early.

During the year that the local behavioral health partners had the banners up, our suicides decreased by 35%. There's no data to support the idea that the banners had anything to do with the decrease. Maybe it was the overall community action, but the numbers imply that the project did no harm.

Erica KitzmanComment