The Mission

To break through the stigma and fear that can come with depression by showing people that they are not alone and to help society gain compassion through understanding that
they aren't immune.

From The Creator:

My personal mission is to open the door of communication between people with a little more honesty and a lot less pretense. The Wave of Hope is a traveling exhibition of photographic portraits and small biographies of everyday people that adresses three things - where they were when they hit a wall of hopelessness, how they came through it and what they would say to someone who is now standing in the shoes they once wore. These are happy people. This is a happy project. It is meant to be a literal, powerful wave of hope and I want it to be quietly available to everyone who are in those same shoes of uncetainty and at the same time right up in the face of those who need to see it so that the predjudice ends and thusly ends the stigma that keeps people from reaching out for help. Think of this as a movie that you would watch - conflict, resolution, happy ending with a bonus: the words of encouragement and advice so that you can have your own happy ending!

The Impetus For The Project

The impetus to do this project is the easy part to explain. (the rest, not so much!) I heard that the county I live in had the highest suicide rate of any county in California. Then I asked where the suicide prevention cards were (I used to work on a woman’s hotline and we had those everywhere – but 20 years ago). I was told that they “had” the cards but “none of the business wanted to put them out because they didn’t like the stigma”. The whole idea that some coffee shop (or whatever) would not put these cards out because of the “stigma” put me into a tailspin. Really people? Do you fear that someone would walk into your coffee shop, order a mocha, see the crisis line card on your table and cancel the order? How absurd is that? That was the start of it.

However, to explain how this project has morphed and my real goal for this is not so easy to express. This is not simply a story just about people who attempted suicide and survived; lost people to suicide; people who suffer from chronic depression, it is about plain and simple people who hit a place, where they were so filled with angst, that they felt alienated and wondered if it is worth carrying on anymore. THIS is the hidden and silent side of the human condition – the part that everyone reaches, if they are honest, and if they live long enough. We are too accustomed to the idea that we have to reach some absurd and ultimately unobtainable level of perfection which will theoretically make us loveable, admirable and "perfect". We are spoon fed this notion from childhood. That perfection is designed to be unobtainable because that very unobtainability is quite profitable; it is what most advertising is based on (buy the car -get the girl, etc). You get it. Sadly this has been imprinted on our very souls to such a degree that when we hit dark moments, (ie tend to assume that other people don't go through what we go through and that their lives are perfect where ours are not) we just shut up.Then in comes a sense of alienation like a big ugly monster. Slippery bad boy, that one. Right down the hill.

I believe, given due to both my professional and my personal life experiences, that people by and large, all want to be loved, admired, happy and validated. But when we hit a wall, we tend to not talk about it because we are afraid that people will leave us if they know we aren't "perfect".

I am, if you will forgive me my esoteric symbology, trying to create a safe room with a new light in it. The men and women who have shared their stories are the glowing lights of hope in this new room. Please take the time to not only see their photos but to read their stories. Every person out there has something to say. If you have a story, I ask one thing of you – be honest with the world about your hard times. You don't have to go on TV with it, tell anyone in your circle about it, or anything like that. But maybe the guy in the seat next to you on an airplane? The person you happened upon at a convenience store when you saw that maybe they were hurting? I don’t know. That’s the thing. We just don’t know. You may be reaching out a hand and most importantly, you might be giving hope and permission for someone to survive by sharing the time that you questioned the value of even that. You may never know if your words saved a life or not. But then, you don't need to know.

The Goal

We want to reach the person who isn’t going to look for us. Think of this as a book exploded, photos and stories on a wall. Every wall – not museums, not galleries, per se, but places where people might be and accidentrally see these. Ever gone somewhere and felt awkward and alone? You amble around and pretend to become fascinated with the coke machine? Spent too much time at the jukebox? Those are the walls we want to be on.

While this is easily a book - (photos, stories) and I would love to put a book on my coffee table that said, "GO SHARON! LOOK WHAT YOU DID!", that is really an excercise in absurdity and well, ego. (And seriously? When was the last time you actually read one of your coffee table books?) that is not what I want this to be - people who are feeling alone are not going to trot out and buy a coffee table book. Right? Am I crazy? They aren't. They aren't going to look for us, we have to find them.

But most importantly -

We want this to grow. We want everyone to become part of The Wave of Hope. Be it becoming into my studio, and doing this or just telling someone your story on a bus. Prejudice, fear and anger seem to be a big part of our humanity nowadays. Enough. Just talk. Reach out. In telling your story you will find that the ugly part of your life just became beautiful and meaningful. If you don’t know (and likely you never will) that you made a difference, don’t worry about that; just know that you did. Remember: "One Man's trash is another man's treasure" Let's make opening ourselves up the norm. Now I sound like Martin Luther King, "I have a dream....." But damnit, I do and this is it: Tell your story and give permission for someone else to do the same and not feel so alone.

Be a Wave. Break the Silence.

Be Proud of Your Life - All of it!

All Rights Reserved. "The Wave of Hope" registered Trademark of Sharon Dawson.