Friday, June 27, 2008


Suicide's impact -- in animated reality

Real voices, real stories. On, Americans who have lost a loved one to suicide share their heartbreak. And those who have considered suicide -- or survived an attempt -- share their transformations.

The site, launched this week by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, features speaking avatars -- animated images created by users who choose their on-screen self's age, hair color, clothing and accessories. The voices are recorded by telephone. Visitors can create avators for one of three categories: Loss (people who have lost a loved one), Turning Points (those who have considered suicide) or Helpers (those involved in suicide prevention).

The site, which aims to raise awareness about suicide's impact and to offer help and support to people who need it, asks that visitors who create avatars omit last names, money requests, links to for-profit organizations and, most important, descriptions of the actual suicide or attempt. The focus is on prevention, and the site seems determined not to romanticize one of society's grimmer realities.

The stories of Loss are wrenching. A woman devastated by her husband's death; a mother bereft almost beyond words at the death of her child; men and women who have lost a parent, sibling, friend... Anyone wondering whether their absence would be felt should listen to these stories. There's no doubt.

Too few stories, at least for now, are featured in the category for those who survived. I think we all need to hear from more people who managed to find, and hold onto, perspective.

The site could well be helpful for the fragile among us, but so too is the number for the 24-hour hot line: (800) 273-TALK. If you think you may need it, go ahead and write it down. Keep it with you.

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