Finding the Light Within

About The Project


James Burns

Completion Date

1 June 2012


120 South 30th Street

Photo by Steve Weinik

Visit the Storytelling Mural Blog

The rate of suicide attempts among public high school students in Philadelphia is almost twice the national average – 12.9 percent versus 6.9 percent, respectively. Particularly troubling is the rate of suicide attempts among African American youth (12.1 percent) which is up to twice that of comparable cities, such as New York (6.5 percent), Baltimore (7.8 percent) or Detroit (9.9 percent), according to a 2009 study by Temple University’s College of Health Professions and Social Work.

Mural Arts has partnered with the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to combat this tragic social phenomenon.

Finding the Light Within, a mural by James Burns, sheds a light on youth suicide by providing a voice for survivors, attempters, and their families and friends by creating a new community around this issue. Through this project, we hope to educate the public about warning signs of suicidal behavior and how to seek help for loved ones before there is a loss of life.

To create the foundation for the mural project, a series of community meetings and two distinct workshop series to engage a broad range of participants were held. Poet/artist Theodore Harris and psychologist Dr. Terri Erbacher facilitated writing and collage-making workshops at Horizon House (a community resource for adults with psychiatric or developmental disabilities, drug and alcohol addictions, and/or homelessness), which helped start a dialogue amongst participating survivors and attempters of suicide.

Additionally, storytelling workshops for people whose lives have been changed by suicide were directed by Dr. Molly Layton, a writer and psychotherapist who works with First Person Arts. These stories will be read by actors at a performance as part of the First Person Salon series on November 13th at 1:00 p.m. at Christ Church in Old City.

“I am in awe of the strength and courage of these folks to come out and bring this serious issue into the public eye,” said Burns. “It is obviously not an easy thing to talk about and I am thankful to know that there are so many people who are willing to come out and get involved in the awareness effort and even more so to know that there is such a wonderful network of people who are regularly working and dealing with this type of trauma.” 

Through Finding the Light Within a new and diverse community has been created to share awareness and resources for intervention around the issue of suicide in Philadelphia.



We Remember Them

In the rising of the sun and in its going down,

We Remember them.

In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter,

We Remember them.

In the opening of buds and in the warmth of summer,

We Remember them.

Om the rustling of the leaves and the beauty of autumn,

We Remember them.

In the beginning of the year and when it ends,

We Remember them.

When we are weary and in need of strength,

We Remember them.

When we are lost and sick at heart,

We Remember them.

When we have joys we yearn to share,

We Remember them.


So long as we live, they too shall live,

For now they are a part of us, as

We Remember them.

-          Courtesy of Susan Kelleher, Survivors of Suicide of Delaware Valley

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