Loss inspires student’s action

Support: Project focuses on suicide prevention by sharing secrets.

Art to educate: University of Calgary students view an art project created by a group of visual arts students to bring light to the dark despair of those considering suicide.

The loss of a good friend through suicide has spurred a former Salmon Arm resident into raising awareness, funds and support for troubled folk.

Taylor Pedersen spent high school years in Salmon Arm, was a member of the Sockeyes swim club and went on to place in Olympic trials.

Now a resident of Calgary, Pedersen says her heart is in Salmon Arm where good friend Shane Berzens committed suicide on April 15, 2004.

“He was one of those sweet boys and I found him to be kind of caring,” Pedersen says, pointing out Berzens often helped her with her chemistry homework. “I was in Victoria when it happened. I guess there might have been a bit of a cry for help on Facebook, but nobody did anything and nobody took it seriously.”

Pedersen takes suicide very seriously now.

She is part of a group of photography and visual arts students  who decided to take on projects using American Frank Warren’s PostSecret project as a basis.

Warren launched the website PostSecret.com in 2005 and sent out postcards inviting people to decorate them and write a secret or confession before mailing them to him anonymously. Since then, he has written five books using the postcards he has received and posted on his website.

The suicide prevention advocate receives between 100 and 200 postcards per day, says Pedersen, who calls the project amazing.

“You can put something down that you haven’t been able to tell anyone, and it could save your life,” she says, noting PostSecret is a community of sorts. “It doesn’t matter how weird, or kinky you think it might be, if you go on the website you’ll find your secret. It makes you feel connected. The whole point is to show we are not alone and we are not so different from one another.”

The University of Calgary group connected by sharing and discussing their own secrets, something she calls “an emotional process that brought us closer together in a way we never anticipated.”

Their first project was presented in an art gallery format.  For the second project the group used a collection of their classes’ secrets and presented a pyramid type visual piece.

As well as raising $20,000, the group is realizing another dream – Warren, the man who essentially started the group on their path, will present his PostSecret live presentation to them in Calgary April 14.

“I’m so proud of what the group has done. I don’t like to toot my own horn but I’m proud of me too, this was my idea,” she says, noting she would like to bring a gallery presentation to Salmon Arm. “I am really, really excited about where this is going to go, and the other cool thing is we will never know whose life we’ve saved.”

Pedersen would be happy to hear from anyone who has ideas of how she can link with a Salmon Arm group. Contact her at tayalexpet@gmail.com.


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