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World Suicide Prevention Day

Kane, a CHD kid, holding up a picture of himself and Grandad Dennis, a cardiologist who died by suicide.

September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day and would have been my dad’s 64th birthday.

My dad died by suicide in January of 2015.

Suicide and mental health are topics our family openly talks about.

A grandfather plays with his young grandson.
Kane playing trains with Grandad Dennis in January 2014.

Every year 800,000 people around the world die by suicide. When someone dies by suicide their family, friends and community are left to grieve, often in silence, as suicide continues to be stigmatized and misunderstood.

This year, I am working in partnership with the Bow Valley Community Helpers program, funded through Alberta Health Services. We are working together to tell the stories of suicide survivors in the Bow Valley. The goals of this photo project are to hold space for those left behind and to spark conversations about suicide.

We need to talk openly about suicide. We need to share stories and educate our communities. We need to ensure that every single person knows how to access the resources available.

If you or anyone you know is feeling suicidal know there are people who care and can help. Please call 1-800-SUICIDE

In honour of my dad our family is telling our story.

Suicide survivors: A mother and son smile at each other while using a stethoscope.
A self-portrait of Kane and I using Grandad Dennis’ stethoscope. This location was also important to my dad.

Every one of us have survived some type of trauma and this year opened many people’s eyes as to just how important mental health is.

It doesn’t matter if I just met you or I’ve known you for years.
I see you.
I am here.
I am listening.
Because I was there too.

A commemorative quilt containing images and memories.
This commemorative quilt hangs in my mom’s bedroom.

Survivor: my mom, Cheryl Morgan
Loved one: Dennis Morgan, Husband
Artifact: “I held a memory quilt that was made by a very good friend of mine. Barb made the quilt using photos and pieces of fabric that held special meaning. In it there was a piece of a sleeper that Dennis had bought for Maverick and a picture of Dennis and Kane holding up a fish they had caught. I wear a necklace with his wedding ring and a ‘key to my heart’ charm which contains a small portion of his ashes.”

A portrait of a suicide survivor.
A portrait of a suicide survivor.

Survivor: Kristy Wolfe
Loved one: Dennis Morgan, Dad
Artifact: My dad’s stethoscope is important to me. You see, my dad was a cardiologist. I didn’t realize the intricacies of his job until my son, Kane, was born with congenital heart defects. My dad was still with us when we initially found out about Kane’s heart through fetal echocardiograms, during the learning stages of life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, as well as for Kane’s first heart surgery. My dad was around when Maverick was born heart healthy. My dad was no longer with us when Kane had his most recent heart surgery or when he received a pacemaker last September. My dad was a cardiologist. He knew more than any of us just what was in store for Kane and I will never know if that added stress led to his death. But I cannot control that. What I can control is how I talk about mental health. I make a point of checking in with our medical staff about how they are doing. Because they are in it with us. 

Survivor: my older son, Kane Wolfe
Loved one: Dennis Morgan, Grandad
Artifact conversation:
Me: “What were you holding that belonged to Grandad?”
Kane: “A stethoscope and a picture of me and grandad playing when I was a baby.”
Me: “What were you doing with the picture?”
Kane: “I was covering up my face my younger face.”

A portrait of a suicide survivor.

A portrait of a suicide survivor.

Survivor: my younger son, Maverick Wolfe
Loved one: Dennis Morgan, Grandad
Artifact conversation:
Me: “What were you holding that belonged to Grandad?”
Mav: “His fishing rod.”
Me: “What were you doing with it?”
Mav: “Acting like I was fishing.”

Survivor: my sister, Erin Manson
Loved one: Dennis Morgan, Dad
Artifact: “When I was in high school I went to Spain. I brought back this sword for dad. He loved to travel. Since that time, we traveled together to Egypt, Turkey, Portugal, Greece, Italy and the UK. We shared a love for collecting souvenirs.”

A portrait of a suicide survivor.

Survivor: my brother, Brendan Morgan
Loved one: Dennis Morgan, Dad
Artifact: “Dad loved to go skiing with the family. We made sure to go as many times in a year as we could. He loved to sing silly songs while we rode the chair lift. His go to song was “I’m a lumberjack” from Monty Python.”

Survivor: my sister, Natalie Hextall
Loved one: Dennis Morgan, Dad
Artifact: “I am holding the boat hook while out on the logs in Cowichan Lake. I wanted to use dad’s boat but it’s not in the water this year. We spent many days at the lake out in the boat. Dad loved to yell, “Yeehaw!” when he went fast and was ruthless when trying to bounce us off the tube.”

A portrait of a suicide survivor.
A baby girl lies on her tummy and seemingly mimics the posture of the statue behind her.

Survivor: my niece, Oakley Hextall
Loved one: Dennis Morgan, Grandad
Artifact: Oakley is the newest member of our family. She was born five years after Grandad passed away. As we were having a little baby photo shoot we noticed the similarity between her posture and the mermaid statue in the background. Grandad Dennis loved to collect art and this was one of his favourite pieces.

What triggers memories of your loved ones?

Is there an artifact that immediately comes to mind?

This story is about suicide survivors, but there are other losses each of us has survived. Death, miscarriage, divorce, job loss, are just a few. Each one of these life changing events is a part of our stories.

What’s your story?

Published by Kristy Wolfe Stories

Kristy is an engaging, open, and honest Common Language DST trained digital storytelling facilitator. She has been speaking and teaching workshops on both photography & digital storytelling for 5 years. With a background in the education, healthcare, and non-profit sectors, she works with diverse audiences, prioritizing ethics in storytelling and storyteller wellbeing.

12 thoughts on “World Suicide Prevention Day

  1. That STORY is the most beautiful way to reflect on your Dad….all of the memories, artifacts and thoughts. I got teary eyed at the possibilities and memories and how they reflected on my life and my losses. We all have them and we need to tell our stories. Love and Hugs

  2. An important and compassionate project Kirsty. I love following your blog and seeing how effectively you use your photography skills. You are one of the world’s gems. Your dad was obviously special and well loved and you bring home the fact that mental health affects people from all ages and walks of life. I’m currently on ‘suicide watch’ for a family member – it’s hard seeing him so down on himself – but we are trying to surround him with practical love and support, even as his thoughts are distorted.

  3. This is so special Kristy. Thank you for what you are doing with all of your gifts to help humanity heal on so many levels.

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