These Suicide Attempt Survivors Share Their Stories in Hopes of Helping Others

Photographer Dese'Rae L. Stage founded Live Through This to shed light on survivors of attempted suicide and to allow others to share their stories in hopes of ending the stigma - and providing hope. To see more, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE, on stands now

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Dese'Rae L. Stage

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Dese’Rae L. Stage. Vince Lattanzio

The Philadelphia-based photographer drew on her own history of depression and attempted suicide to create Livethroughthis.org in 2010. The site features more than 200 interviews with suicide survivors, all photographed by Stage, to help end the stigma around attempted suicide and provide hope to others. "We're coming out of the shame closet," she said. "Despair is a basic human experience - it could be any of us. I want people to see us and not look away."

Ahead, meet some of the survivors Stage has photographed and hear their stories in their own words.

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Nancy Nettles

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Nancy Nettles. Dese'Rae Stage/LiveThroughThis

The 53-year-old student advisor recalls a period of homelessness that brought her to her lowest point. "I jsut felt like my kids would be better off without me. I tried three times in one year. Afterward I started getting treatment at a community mental health center. I owe my case manager my life. She saw light in me when I saw nothing but darkness."

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Shelby Rowe

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Shelby Rowe. Dese'Rae Stage/ LiveThroughThis

The 47-year-old said her job as a suicide prevention program manager gave her "a false sense of safety. I didn't pay attention to warning signs or ask for help ... But if I was an oncologist who had cancer, would I be scared to tell my colleagues? No! ... Nobody else expected me to be as perfect as I thought I needed to be. I'm kinder to myself. I haven't been at risk for a long time."

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Susan Means

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Susan Means. Dese'Rae Stage/Livethroughthis.org

The 65-year-old retired entrepreneur said telling the story of her four suicide attempts on Live Through This was "the turning point for me ... It was a catalyst to find people like me and try to help. Any of us can spot someone a mile away who is like us. I reach out; I ask, 'Do you want to talk?'"

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Jack Park

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Dese'Rae Stage/Livethroughthis.org

Now a mental health counselor, the 26-year-old lived through two attempts while at UPenn and now says he found an "ultimate purpose: Loving God and loving people. ... For those whose minds are blessedly free from thoughts of suicide, please look around and listen to your friends' hardships. Take the extra step. Depressed people don't share their stories easily."

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