My name’s Gwynn Lanning and I’m a musician, composer, Suicide prevention advocate, and LGBTQ rights activist. I’ve been composing music for ten years and view it as both a profession and a kind of personal/communal therapy. Over the years, I’ve played at LGBTQ community events, senior citizens homes, and local shops. My goal as a composer and activist is to spread messages via music, encouraging people to feel and talk about their personal struggles in an open and safe environment.

Suicide prevention became a priority to me after the loss of my friend, Benji, in 2015. The shock his death sent me into caused me to seek counseling for my own depression and find resources to help people who were struggling with suicidal ideation. I took part in creating and organizing a three-year event called Listen to Your Art, which specialized in aiding people with Suicidal ideation and donated over $20,000 to the Trevor Project. My friend and schoolmate, Callay Boire-Shedd, who shared the experience with Benji, became involved with The S Word and offered me the opportunity to share my story with this organization. I am proud to have come this far in my music, knowledge, and voice. I hope to continue working with the The S Word and other organizations to help better our national and global community.

Leaving Unmasked Faces

I wrote Leaving Unmasked Faces in dedication to a friend of mine who died by suicide in May of 2015. 2015 was a year of change, both in my professional and personal life. I lost friends from transferring schools and made new ones, and I sought to improve my composition skills with a new teacher. In my new school I met Benji, who became a close friend and “therapist.” We listened to each other rant about our lives and provided solace no one else gave us. I knew Benji struggled with depression and suicidal ideation, but I didn’t realize how serious it was until he was gone. The most devastating part was that he was my outlet, and now that I was at my lowest point, I couldn’t even tell him the sadness I felt. Suicide affects people in different ways: for me it made me realize the value of my life and those around me. I started seeing a professional therapist, reached out to my friends dealing with depression and anxiety, started working in suicide activism, and created music to express the feelings I couldn’t convey with mere words. Leaving Unmasked Faces is the product of extreme anger, sadness, and frustration, but also the understanding that life can continue if you can move through the pain.