Let’s take a look at how this project was born.
Michael Strider’s career in the professional photography arena began like many great careers, by being in the right place at the right time.
In 1994 Michael was working for rocker Ted Nugent as a regional director for his wildlife organization. Ted happened to be performing a show in Raleigh, NC and he gave Michael’s friend, who worked for a local magazine, a photo pass to shoot the event. The friend became ill and was unable to photograph the show, so he asked Michael to shoot it for him. Michael grabbed his old, but trusty, 35mm film camera and the couple ancient lenses he had acquired over the years doing amateur photography and headed off to the show.
From this single fortuitous event, Michael suddenly found his life changing in a way he had never experienced or expected. He quickly became friends with some of his personal childhood idols in the music and entertainment world. Michael has had the pleasure (and sometimes displeasure) of photographing the most famous faces in the entertainment industry from musical artists of all genres and Hollywood film celebrities to supermodels, Playboy Playmates, and several world leaders. He achieved a level of involvement and exposure in the world that he and most of his friends he grew up with had only dreamed of.
In essence, he was experiencing LIFE! But…read on to learn about how a tragic event involving another friend of his took Michael’s life and mission into a totally different direction……and has become the reason for this project and this book.
The Loss of a Friend
On September 09, 2006, while having dinner with friends I received a call from my mother telling me that one of my closest childhood friends attempted to take his own life. His name was Matthew. I felt my world, the one of the bright lights, parties, wild women, and all things ‘perfect’ suddenly reduced to insignificance. The only thing that mattered at this point was my friend and his health. Matthew was diagnosed earlier in his life with what is referred to as a Bipolar disorder. For those not familiar with Bipolar disorder and it’s terrible impact on the life of those suffering from it, one of the most difficult things with controlling the symptoms involves determining the proper dosage and medication for each individual affected by it.
Sufferers typically start to feel ‘normal’ after about 6-weeks or so on their (proper) medication, and more often than not, they decide they don’t need the medication any longer. This works for a few days, but nearly always results in the rapid and dynamic crash back into deep depression (Bipolar disorder sufferers experience periods of extreme energy/positivity known as “manic” and just as extreme/negative periods of “depression”, often cycling back and forth several times a day, or even within a single hour).
This apparently happened with Matthew. He felt the medicine he was taking was no longer needed, or he simply didn’t feel it was doing any good for him so he stopped taking it. The resulting chemical imbalance drove him into such a depressed state of mind that he was no longer able to make rational decisions (or to recognize that he was experiencing symptoms of his disease). He ultimately decided to turn a gun on himself.
Fortunate or unfortunate, the attempt at taking his own life was not immediately successful. I dropped everything and rushed to the hospital to see my friend and his family to offer whatever support and comfort I could. While in the Intensive Care Unit, Matthew was not able to move or open his eyes, however, the doctors informed me he could still hear. I was able to speak to him one last time and all I could say was, “I love you, Matthew. Everything is going to be OK.” A tear rolled down his cheek in response.
Sadly, just 12 hours later he was taken off life support. His life was over. The pain and suffering he had been through was over, and now those of us he left behind had to learn to understand his choice and to wonder what, if anything, we could have done to prevent such a tragedy. For years I felt extreme guilt that I wasn’t able to stop Matthew from taking his life. Knowing there was nothing I could do to correct the past, I made a commitment to help others that are suffering from suicidal feelings.
While searching for suicide prevention networks in the country, I contacted a representative at the Didi Hirsch Suicide Prevention Center in Los Angeles. They recommended I help on a national level so they put me in contact with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. After a conference call with Dr. John Draper, the Director of the organization, I decided that God had put me in a place in my life so many years earlier that had ultimately provided me with the talent, connections, and means to maybe make a difference after all!
I would undertake a project that would benefit the foundation and hopefully, help many other people on a personal level through the organization.
“LifeAfter – Visions of Hope,” is a year-long project. It is a coffee-table book of celebrities (and the occasional non-celebrity) who are dedicated advocates for suicide prevention. Edgy, sexy, uplifting and provocative, it is ultimately a Celebration of LIFE!
Please join in this undertaking and find out how you can become involved in your own way to help others as well. Sometimes, without even knowing it, an act as simple as a phone call to say “Hi” to an old friend, or holding a door for a stranger, can be the one thing that puts positivity back into their life and may have helped to turn their focus away from the darkness inside to the wonder and brightness of the world around them!