- Posted August 23, 2009 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Stories from Second Life
A Place for Hope and Healing - The Survivors of Suicide Art Exhibition
About a month ago the “Survivors of Suicide" art exhibition opened in Second Life. I spoke with Krissy Sinclair, the creator of the exhibition, who in RL is a psychotherapist with a Master’s degree in clinical social work and who has worked in the mental health field since 1992. She is the CEO of a mental health non-profit organization, an advocate for the rights of the mentally ill and as well runs a survivors of suicide support group for those who have been touched by suicide in some way, perhaps as a survivor of a failed suicide attempt or as the loved one of someone who has committed suicide. Krissy is also an artist.
In Second Life Krissy decided to develop this exhibition because she “wanted to see what would happen in an immersive educational environment using art to draw people into the topic. I think this is a new way to reach people. People have the ability to come and talk and still be unknown. Thus they are often more willing to share. This is also my attempt at an anti-stigma campaign.”
The exhibition is on two floors. Each floor basically has the same layout, with the same objects, but the atmosphere of each is completely different. The subject of the first floor is “Suicide” and can be shocking for the visitor. There is a warning before you enter. The art in this area is designed to help those who have not felt suicidal or depressed to get a slight understanding of how it feels. The different methods people use to try to take their own lives are depicted. As you enter, the first object encountered is a blood stained bathtub, representing those who have taken their lives by cutting their wrists. Artworks also cover the walls and Krissy says that the first floor is meant “to feel closed in like depression can make you feel”. You certainly get that sense. There is an eye that swivels around and observes you as you walk, because “often people suffering with a mental illness feel paranoid and watch(ed)”. There is also a little figure that “represents the feeling of being alone no matter who is around, alone and isolated”. The first floor does feel enclosed, with the unhappy pictures , dark walls and ever-vigilant eye. It was meant to be attention-grabbing and it is. At the same time there is a lot of information on how serious the problem of suicide is. For example, every day, approximately 80 Americans take their own life, and 1,500 attempt to do so. An average of one person dies by suicide every 16.2 minutes in the United States.
The second floor is about “Recovery”, recovery from loss or from the weight of feeling suicidal. According to Krissy “This floor is meant to show the rejoicing in life and healing”. She continued “We often have impromptu support talks up here. It has been wonderful. I have found people finding each other up here and they sit down and have a very healing conversation”. The second floor is “dramatically full of life ... to show the opposite (of the first floor)”. It is bright, full of flowers and sunshine, with the sound of birds twittering in the background. As on the first floor, the artwork is there to help set the mood, but whereas the first floor is dark and confined, this floor is open and welcoming. When you arrive on the second floor the first object you discover, again, is a bathtub, but this one is clean and shiny white and stands for life. There is a table and chairs set out in what looks like a meadow, providing a comfortable spot for people to gather. Instead of the watchful eye there is a resource panel with notecards on such things as how to respond to someone who is suicidal and where help can be found.
Krissy wants the project to be constantly changing. In the future she plans on adding a memorial wall. While at the moment the art is all done by Krissy, she hopes to add the work of others. Poetry is also welcomed, so people can share their thoughts and feelings. The first poem Krissy received was from the well-known avatar Crap Mariner. While Crap allowed his name to be included with his poem, it is also possible to submit anonymous works, should anyone wish to do so. And eventually Krissy intends on having the information available in different languages and to list resources available in other countries.
The whole sim, of which the Survivors of Suicide Art exhibition is part, is shared by Krissy Sinclair and her partner Carmichael Caudron. It is open to the public and allows for lots of different activities, such as horseback riding, games and off-road three wheeling. There is a bus that goes around the sim as well as a balloon ride. A theatre is available that is free to use. In addition, Krissy has a gallery of her own art and in the future she plans on displaying the work of other artists. She is going to be holding a juried competition for original artworks in sl or rl that represent life. The grand prize is $1,000 and an art show in Krissy’s gallery, Image by Sinclair.
Suicide is a difficult subject to contemplate and discuss. The word itself causes most people to flinch and turn away. Yet it is something that needs to be talked about and better understood. The World Health Organization says that depression will be the leading illness in 2012. The Survivors of Suicide Art exhibition is a step to help overcome the fear and helplessness that people feel when mental illness, suicide and depression are mentioned. Krissy stated “Most people do not know how to react when someone is suicidal. They fear asking if someone is feeling that way. Talking about feeling suicidal with someone does not cause a person to commit suicide. It gives them a relief to share how they feel. I also would like to add that if someone says they are feeling suicidal to take it seriously. This is the number to call in the US for information and help: 1-800-273-TALK”. This is Krissy’s attempt to help take the stigma away from mental illness and suicide. She says “Suicide is preventable if we get past the stigma and take the topic out of the closet and into the light of knowledge”.
1. Exhibition entrance
2. Krissy Sinclair and the angel, representing those lost to suicide. Krissy describes the angel “ as the connection between those who have lost the battle to suicide and those who are left behind in life”.
3. The watchful eye
5. Krissy Sinclair in her gallery “Image by Sinclair”