The suicide rate in Lithuania is nearly three times as high as the average rate in the European Union. It is even among the highest in the world. Looking at the bigger picture, suicides occur more frequently in bigger cities. Whereas in rural areas, less people lose hope in life since social ties are still stronger. In Lithuania, on the contrary, more people commit suicide on the countryside. Especially men between 40 and 50 years of age are at a high risk to commit suicide. Alcoholism, unemployment, no perspective – and many other cases with reasons that are hard to find and even a harder to understand.
The reasons for each suicide are different. They are not an expression of personal freedom, but often affected by hopelessness and diseases. Outer, social and environmental factors also play a big role among them. Since World War II and starting with the Soviet occupation the suicide rate for men, at times, grew from ten suicides per 100.000 inhabitants to 90 annually.Experts speak about a collective trauma and loss of identity – influenced among others by the forced collectivization of the farms in rural areas through the Soviets. But the reasons for each suicide are always more complex and personal and can not mainly be related to the countries trauma.
My story “How is Life?” is not just about photography. I worked together with the protagonists and asked them to write down their personal story. These statements are an essential part of this project.
I photograph life not death because death cannot be seen. Maybe you can't take pictures of the wind. But you could try to catch the consequences of the wind, bending trees and rolling waves.
I’m sitting exactly where I sat when I got your text and found out that you had killed yourself. This is the place where I sat, trembling and praying that this weren’t true.I am sorry for not being an ideal daughter. I WANT you to know that I love you. I miss you dearly. Sometimes I still call your number and wait for your call on Sundays. Sometimes I curl into a ball and cry in my bed, because I miss you so much. Why did you tell me that you’ll always stand by me? When you are gone, who should I go to?I remember you as I ride my bike – you gave me the freedom to ride it =) THANK YOU. I am happy, but I miss you so much. I no longer have a dad, and I’m angry at you. You left me. I love you and dream of you often. You are my daddy. Farewell. I love you.
While working for the Youth Line, I keep meditating over the phenomenon of human free will.To what extent is suicide an impulsive, mechanical reaction to suffering, and to what extent is it a person’s choice to give up? Would all people, faced with immense suffering, choose suicide?I don’t know… But I increasingly want to respect the person’s choice, whatever it may be.To stand by them and to respect them.
When I saw my husband descending into the well, I got very scared, but I no longer remember what I thought.As I asked him to get out of there, he told me he could no longer do it.With the help of my mother and daughter we pulled him up.
The most difficult thing is when you have to tell others something about yourself. The question what others will think about me always scares me. This is why I keep postponing and killing time, just so that I don’t have to write.It hurts to admit that my dad and sister killed themselves, that I have no parents or family, that I travel the world like a lost shooting star.What does the photo mean to me? Hope. Hope that our lives are different and there is nothing wrong with that.Hope that nobody is entirely determined by events and losses of life.Hope that suicide in the family does not mean that one should be doomed for eternal sorrow.
There are many things that hurt. Many memories. Vilnius will always remain a city where I was born and where I had a childhood in the family.The beauty of these memories is much more precious to me than thinking about the fact that my family later fell apart.It is not death that these memories speak of. They speak of life – fragile and short as it is.
I thank Mikutis for bringing life back to me, and for the immense love he gave us. For sixteen years, we all shared daily life and festive moments, we grew, we lived, we learned. Mikutis is now in the hunting grounds of eternity, and we carry on living.
My daughter studies at a university, I work and have her back, as the dog used to have our back at a certain point in time. It never asked questions, it never said anything, it never judged, only cuddled up to me and warmed me until all ‘ice’ melted.
In early 2010, the parish priest of Varėna decided to end his own life. It was hard to believe the news, as I personally knew the priest. I attended his funeral and then returned to continue my work. Totally unexpectedly, I was ordered to take over his parish. I noticed after settling here that parishioners were having an equally hard time dealing with this news. I began to inquire what happened and found obvious signs of past disease. Unfortunately, it was too late to change anything. This incident encouraged me not only to pray for the dead more, but also to be more alert and attentive in communicating with people.
My favorite colors are black and white, so I dive head down, passionately, into all activities I engage in.I strive to help children under my guidance to learn to recognize and be guided by the roadsigns of life as soon as possible.
When I’m sad, I sing, play and listen to music, I relax with a good mood, I dance, I love jokes.I try to smile at all times.
In 1992-1994 I worked for a radio program called Voices of the Night at M-1 radio. As the program’s host, I used to work there several times a week. The idea was simple – people would call my work phone and I would just put them live. They could say whatever they wanted.Once a young guy called me and said that after talking to me live he was going to kill himself. The only thing I knew was that one must speak to a suicidal person as long as possible. This way the person may pass that critical limit when he is ready to harm himself.
I talked to him more than an hour. After that he suddenly hung up. I didn’t know how it all ended, but while talking to him live, I asked various things just to extend this conversation as long as possible.A few weeks later he called me and thanked me for our conversation. He said it had helped him. It was exactly that case when I clearly understood how powerful a simple conversation can be. Recently I got a message from him: “Do you remember how we talked on the phone 20 years ago? Well, I’m still alive.”