Bunnell, FL – While more than 10 million women and men in America are victims of domestic violence each year, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence says the epidemic is still underreported and suicide remains a leading of cause of death in the United States according to the National Institute of Mental Health, it can be challenging for those in the cycle violence or in the throes of a mental health crisis to seek help. Even once a person is out of the situation, it can be a struggle to move on.
The statistics are staggering and recovery is a long process.
Helping victims overcome feelings often associated with the trauma of domestic violence or suicide that can include shame, helplessness, hopelessness and a loss of confidence, Toni Mayes, director and founder of the nonprofit Find Your Peace By Pieces has made it a mission to help support the mental health recovery landscape with events and activities around Flagler County, including Saturday’s ‘Self-Love, Abuse and Suicide Survivors Photoshoot’ co-hosted by Mayes in conjunction with professional photographer Jessica Rodgers, at her studio Jessica Gray Photography LLC.
Offering a chance for survivors to let down their walls in a safe environment, those who came for the no cost photoshoots like Alyssa Kissee, said it was a chance to reclaim herself and express her emotions.
“I’ve been through some rough stuff between growing up in a domestic violence household, battling suicidal thoughts, a horrible marriage, it’s been rough,” said Kissee.
“I’ve really been working on self-love and being confident, being proud of who I am and what I’ve been through and decided I’d give it a try, and it was amazing.”
Mayes is a survivor herself, and wanted to help focus the attention on helping those coming out on the other side realize they were not alone.
“This is something I’ve been thinking about for a year or two, just wanting to empower people,” said Mayes. “I’m an abuse and suicide survivor as well. I know how it feels to finally feel empowered, and the independence, and I thought the pictures would be a great way to portray that.”
Providing professional photography for happy occasions like family portraits, milestone birthdays and events, Rodgers said the sessions were something very different for her, and at times struggled to maintain her composure while working with the survivors.
“This is actually something a little different than what I normally do, but a good different,” shared Rodgers.
“I love making people happy, that’s just what I do. I love evoking emotion and seeing people happy whether it’s parents with their newborns or being able to be part of something so emotional as this, in a different way it was very cool to be a part of that, and their story.”
On site to assist and support those who attended were Kaitlyn Campbell, owner of

Lunar Sol who provides special “POP bags” created by Find Your Peace by Pieces volunteers filled with inspirational items, and Lisa Edwards and Carrie Petkovsek from the
Family Life Center.
“Just reaching out, being personal and taking the time to listen,” are keys to helping those who need it shared Edwards.
For more information:
Find Your Peace by Pieces: www.peacebypieces.net
Jessica Gray Photography: www.jessicagrayphotography.com