The Suicide Project

Published on Nov. 24, 2014 online here and here

Note: Our staff published two versions of this project. Each works better on different platforms; however, the content is the same. Please select whichever displays better on your browser and computer.

In early November, two friends at a local high school committed suicide. One shot herself, and in response, the other stepped in front of a train two days later. The tragedy drew national attention, making it impossible for my community to ignore. Although the girls who killed themselves lived in a neighboring district, their deaths shook my school to its bones.

At our weekly online meeting the next day, I suggested that we respond with a comprehensive multimedia package — The Suicide Project. In less than two weeks, I led 25 staffers as we put together 18 articles, three videos and 27 designs covering teen suicide. Most of my time was spent editing and coaching my staff. We were dealing with a topic that was taboo at my school. Therefore all of our work had to be extremely professional and ethical. 

The process of finding and sharing these stories came with many challenges. Several student sources dropped out after the first week. I called the SPLC multiple times to check and double check the legal implications of what we were doing. My staff spent as much time fact checking with their sources as they did writing. Yet this work paid off in a single, cohesive project that began an important conversation in my school.

Below, I have included several examples of my personal work in The Suicide Project. However, to fully understand the work I put into this project, you should look at the full finished product here or here.

In the original version of the project, our website sometimes struggles to load parts of the page due to its size. The web design itself was a completely new concept that my webmaster and I created in two weeks. We didn't have the money to pay for a web designer, so we learned the new code and formatted it on our own. We added the second version later to make the text more readable. It sometimes fails to load on various browsers and computers.

The Suicide Project was completed on a two-week deadline while the staff simultaneously produced a separate 32-page print publication. It had an extraordinary impact on our school and our community, and I could not be more proud to have led this project.

Evan's Story

In the early stages of The Suicide Project, Evan approached me and offered to do an interview. He is a popular senior. Up until this article no one knew that he had been suicidal. I wanted to focus on the strength of his recovery so that his "coming out" story would show how even the most unexpected people could struggle with — and overcome — depression.

Photo by James Wooldridge. Design by Phoebe Aguiar.

Photo by James Wooldridge. Design by Phoebe Aguiar.

Maddie's Story

In contrast to Evan, most people at our school knew that Maddie struggled with self-harm, depression and suicide. I provided the side of her story that no one had seen before so that students could understand what Maddie went through in a more sympathetic way.

Photo by James Wooldridge. Design by Phoebe Aguiar.

Photo by James Wooldridge. Design by Phoebe Aguiar.

Letter from the Editor

My co-editor and I started and ended The Suicide Project with letters explaining the purpose of the project and thanking the readers. 

Photo by James Wooldridge. Design by Phoebe Aguiar.

Photo by James Wooldridge. Design by Phoebe Aguiar.