Photographer brings anti-bullying, anti-suicide photo shoot to campus
One photographer who survived a suicide attempt is using his talents to fight against others who may attempt the same.
Matthew Bryan Pruitt held the "Silence Shoot" Sept. 26 in the Down Under Food Court to give students a platform to voice their support for people affected by suicide, bullying and anti-LGBTQ prejudice.
If you have been affected by any of these issues, you are not alone. Free, confidential help is available.
CMU Counseling Center
Foust Hall 102
Crisis Text Line
The Listening Ear
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Online chat: www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/
The Trevor Project - LGBTQ crisis line
Text START to 678678
Online chat: www.thetrevorproject.org/get-help-now/
Pruitt, who is part of the LGBTQ community, attempted suicide in Jan. 2011 and has only recently grown comfortable talking openly about it.
“The whole shoot is about breaking the stigma,” Pruitt said. “So if the person who runs it feels stigmatized, how is that going to work?”
Suicide rates steadily rose from 1999 to 2016, increasing by 25 percent nationally, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported in June. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.
A month after Pruitt’s suicide attempt, he moved in with friends who were students at Central Michigan University.
That April, Pruitt founded the "Silence Shoot" in his Lexington Ridge apartment. His only equipment: a bedsheet taped to a wall and an octopus lamp.
Pruitt credits a great deal of his healing to the many LGBTQ friends he met at CMU and to events put on by Spectrum, a Registered Student Organization for LGBTQ people and their allies.
“Every time I come back to (CMU) is my favorite,” Pruitt said.
Through his project, Pruitt has received many stories from people who have been affected by these issues.
Many stories have taken been shared at Out of the Darkness suicide prevention walks, that many families of suicide survivors participate in.
“The moment (some people) put the tape on their mouth, they start crying,” Pruitt said. “I’ve hugged people when they told me their stories.”
“It’s very emotional but very fulfilling if I get to help people,” Pruitt said. “That’s literally the only thing I’ve ever wanted in my life.”
Venezuela freshman Valentina Avila said she wanted to participate in the shoot since these issues affected her too.
Avila, who is bisexual, experienced bullying as a child.
Then, as a sophomore in high school, Avila experienced verbal bullying by another student. Unlike many students, Avila went to a high school that took her bullying seriously — but the bullying still effects her.
“I’ve experienced what comes with bullying, the depression,” Avila said. “I know the consequences of it.”
Even on college campuses, bullying still can happen.
Lakeview sophomore Lee Ringlever said he’s lucky to have not struggled with the issue but knows students who have.
Just this week, a friend shared with Ringlever they got bullied on campus.
“A lot of people don’t talk about it here on campus,” Ringlever said. “It’s really important that everyone recognize bullying can happen in all areas of life.”
“It’s not something to be ignored,” Ringlever added. “It’s something to speak out against.”
To learn the suicide warning signs and risk factors, visit afsp.org/about-suicide/risk-factors-and-warning-signs/.