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Melissa L. Rocchi

Making Art To Mourn: Art Therapy for Survivors of Suicide

       Why did they give up on their life? What went through their mind at the end? How could they abandon their families and friends? These and many other puzzling questions are posed after the suicide of a loved one. The people who are left behind asking these questions are the survivors. Being a survivor herself, the author struggled with how to answer these questions and how to express the feelings she had bottled up inside after the death of her friend.

            Suicide is often something that is not discussed due to the stigma attached to it. The literature on survivors of suicide is vast, but there is little written about specific art therapy interventions with this population. As part of the research for this thesis a workshop was developed in which participants were encouraged to create art pieces to shed light on a subject too often left in the dark. This workshop was designed to allow participants a safe place to interact in a healthy way with others who have had similar losses. The workshop honored those who lost their lives to suicide and gave survivors the opportunity to express their grief through art. Results were gathered by the participant’s responses from workshop evaluations, the artwork made, and the comments made throughout the workshop. This thesis is comprised of a discussion of how the workshop may benefit other survivors of suicide and thereby creating an opportunity for the ones lost to live on through the art. In conclusion, art therapy was helpful to survivors of suicide and will continue to help others in the future.


          Melissa L. Rocchi received a BA in Art with a minor in Psychology from Illinois State University in 2003. While at SAIC, she focused on how the use of art can benefit suicide survivors. Her clinical training includes working with adults with mental illness at the Northtown Rogers Park Mental Health Center and with adolescent girls with emotional disturbances in a psychiatric hospital.


Thesis Advisor: Randy M. Vick, Associate Professor, Chair, Art Therapy

Thesis Reader: Marie Dudek, Survivor of Suicide

Second Reader: Janet Hahn, Social Worker




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