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Lane County suicide prevention project opens Friday in Eugene

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Denise Silfee
A postcard announcement for the Why We Build gallery reception includes images of project participants who shared their stories of life after suicide attempt.

For the past two years, Lane County Public Health has been documenting the lives of 16 people who survived suicide attempts. Their stories– told through photography and spoken word– make up a traveling exhibit called “Why We Build.”

There are about 3,000 suicide attempts in Lane County every year. Suicide Prevention Coordinator Roger Brubaker said while it’s hard to talk about, society can learn from those who have suffered through the darkest of thoughts and lived to tell.

“When all of those stories are brought together, the pain of that is palpable,” he said. “But the fact that all of these people are still alive, despite what they have been through, and still looking for purpose and meaning on a daily basis is absolutely astounding.”

Tiffany Eckert
Suicide Prevention Coordinator with Lane County Public Health, Roger Brubaker, managed the Why We Build project.

The “Why We Build” gallery opens in Eugene on Friday, March 4 then travels to Cottage Grove, Springfield and Florence.

The project title, “Why We Build,” was inspired by a stanza in Pulitzer Prize winning Anne Sexton’s confessional poem “Wanting to Die.” It reads “…suicides have a special language. Like carpenters, they want to know which tools. They never ask, ‘why build?’”

Brubaker said suicide attempt survivors have wisdom to impart.

“This is why we build,” he said. “This is why we build relationships. This is why we build systems of support in our lives. This is why we build purpose and meaning into our lives so that we have a foundation that can help us cope and be resilient in the face of further traumas.”

If you or someone you love is thinking about suicide, the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is: 1-800-273-8255  

Visitors to the “Why We Build” galleries are encouraged to bring headphones to hear participants’ voices by scanning QR codes with a smartphone.

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“Why We Build” exhibits can be viewed at four Locations in Lane County:

March 4-Broadway Commerce Center 44 W Broadway, Eugene with a reception from 5:30 - 8 pm

March 25-Opal Center for Arts & Education 513 E Main St, Cottage Grove with a reception from 6 - 8 pm

April 8- Emerald Art Center 500 Main Street, Springfield, with a reception from 5 - 8 pm

May 14- Siuslaw Public Library 1460 9th Street, Florence with a reception from 3 - 5 pm

Tiffany joined the KLCC News team in 2007. She studied journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia and has worked in a variety of media including television and daily print news. For KLCC, Tiffany reports on health care, social justice and local/regional news. She has won awards from Oregon Associated Press, PRNDI, and Education Writers Association.