Carrie Asselin lost her brother Nathaniel to suicide in 2011 after a long struggle with severe Body Dysmorphic Disorder. She’s also a Samaritans SafePlace meetings member, an avid artist, and a marathon runner. Body dysmorphic disorder is a mental health disorder in which you can’t stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in your appearance — a flaw that appears minor or can’t be seen by others.
This past November Carrie created Samaritans’ Thanksgiving card, an original watercolor and ink drawing. We recently spoke with Carrie to learn more about how she became involved with Samaritans, how it has helped her after her loss, and why continuing to support the organization is so important to her.
Carrie’s journey with Samaritans began in June 2012, shortly after moving to Boston. She had spent the year after college graduation at home, grieving the loss of her brother Nathaniel. Leaving home and finding a new city was liberating, but trying to land her first career-oriented job proved challenging and stressful, and her grief was still incredibly raw. A google search later, she found Samaritans’ presence in the Boston area. She began attending SafePlace meetings, and for the first time since losing Nathaniel, she had the opportunity to connect with other people who had experienced similar trauma. She attended meetings regularly for the next few years.
Carrie recalls “SafePlace meetings provided a much-needed opportunity for me to connect with others who had faced loss due to suicide, especially other young people. One of the many challenging things about experiencing such a life-altering loss at age 22 was the lack of empathy my peers could offer, plenty of sympathy for sure, but I felt very alone in my experience. I still think of people’s stories from SafePlace and the kind, compassionate words to one another.”.
Those connections, along with her brother’s love for running led her to join Samaritans’ Boston Marathon® team for two years in a row. Her brother used running as a way to work through his struggles with Body Dysmorphic Disorder. The training also provided opportunities for deep connection with other people who she had so much in common with. “Running had become a real priority for me during that point in my life, and being able to apply that passion towards helping others who were struggling with suicidality or loss from suicide felt like the perfect opportunity for me. Pouring myself into the training and fundraising was exactly the focus that I needed and I met some truly wonderful, inspiring people during the process.” Carrie raised over $23,000 in 2014 and 2015!
Carrie considers it an honor to be able to give back, helping to ensure that Samaritans services can continue to be freely available to people of all means. When asked why someone should donate to Samaritans, Carrie explained, “Suicide is life-altering, and in my case, I needed specific types of support while grieving. Not only does Samaritans offer services that fill a very important niche in the field of suicide prevention and survivor support, but it is also extraordinary that these services are free and accessible to anyone who needs them. As a financially-struggling 23-year-old, I was extremely grateful to find support services that were not only free, but also happened to be an exact fit for my individual needs during a time of crisis.”
Her inspiration for this year’s Thanksgiving card was born out of the Samaritans “Reflect and Reimagine” theme of 2021 as the pandemic upended our norms and encouraged a new approach to life’s routines. The physical image of the leaves and water was rendered from several photographs that she had taken on a Fall walk around a lake near her home in Bath, Maine.