last photo

Powerful Last Photos exhibit aims to prevent suicide

“These are the last photos of people who died by suicide” the subtitle says in a photo exhibit in London to communicate a strong statement that “suicidal doesn’t always look suicidal.”

Last portraits of seemingly happy and jolly persons who turned suicidal later on are lined up on a street in London to raise new awareness about people suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts.

The outdoor gallery display is an initiative by the suicide prevention charity Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) which also conducted research that says “61% of people would struggle to tell if someone they knew felt suicidal”. To demonstrate, CALM came up with a visual narrative through an exhibit called The Last Photo.

It shows 50 smiling photos taken in the last days of people who died by suicide. Each photo includes an anecdote of shock and sadness that relatives and family experienced.

Simon, 63 years old

“Simon was a dearly loved family man who impacted many lives. He was a kind man with a huge heart who would help anyone. He was never happier than when he was surrounded by his family. We chose this photo not only because it shows how happy and healthy he could be, but also because he was an avid sun worshipper and could always be found topping up his tan. Simon was a son, a father, a brother, a husband, a cousin and a grandfather. His death was unexpected.”

Sky, 21 years old

“I remember our son as a well-mannered boy, full of passion and persuasive, discussing topics with huge conviction from a tender age. Akash changed his name to Sky, and would change his looks to explore different styles and types of music. He wrote, composed and sang his own songs. He outshone every expectation of his parents and family. To us, his mum and dad, he was and will always be AKASH THE GREAT.”

Emily, 19 years old

“Emily was diagnosed with high functioning autism and worked hard to get through life, gaining qualifications, doing an apprenticeship and working in a local pub. She had wanted to go for a drive the morning she died, but was unable to due to the COVID restrictions that were coming back in. The fear that she would lose the new found freedoms and routines that helped her handle her autism filled up her stress bucket and she could no longer cope with life.”

“People tend to think they already know what ‘suicidal’ looks like — reclusiveness, crying, silence, etc — and if they don’t see these traits in someone they’re worried about, they hesitate to intervene,” explains Simon Gunning, CEO of CALM.

“In reality, suicidal behavior takes many forms. People struggling can put on a mask concealing their inner turmoil before taking their own lives.”

The main goal of the initiative is to open conversations with family and friends about suicide. Along with the discussion are ways to avoid it, activities that promote a positive life outlook, and nurture love in the relationships.

“If we can all start one conversation with our friends and family about suicide, together we can smash the stigma that surrounds it.”

The photos and their stories aim to help people prevent suicide by learning from their experiences.

The powerful photo exhibit can also be viewed online. Included in the photo exhibit online is important information on how to help people with suicidal thoughts. The readers are given tips on how to look for possible signs of people struggling with suicide and initiate a conversation that could possibly save their lives.