People who have had firsthand experience with suicide play an essential role in suicide prevention. Suicide attempt survivors, others who have experienced a suicidal crisis, and those who have lost a loved one to suicide can all be powerful agents for challenging prejudice and generating hope for those at risk.
The Brain and Mind Institute facilitated an engaging workshop for people with lived experiences and mental health experts. This coincided with Self-Injury Awareness Day, marked annually on March 1.
“Our stories can be used to complement and enhance existing policies. When people who have experienced mental illness are included, it makes it even more powerful,” said Vivian Gaiko, a participant at the workshop.
According to the World Health Organization, suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among adolescents and the fifteenth leading cause of death worldwide. Every suicide is a tragic incident that has a long-lasting effect on families, communities and entire countries.
People with suicide lived experiences should be involved in developing and reviewing policies and programs to help shape practical suicide prevention activities, treatment, policy, and after-care support. This can lead to understanding and effectively meeting the needs of those with suicide loss, previous suicide attempts, and current suicidal ideation (thoughts and feelings of suicide).
The workshop established a safe group setting where people with lived suicide experiences could have their voices heard, supported, and safeguarded. In addition, the activities were designed to address the gaps in the purposeful involvement of people who have endured suicide experiences.
“Meaningful participation of people with lived suicide experience is a gap that is minimally addressed in low and middle-income countries. This is despite having policies and mental health promotion and prevention activities integrated into these settings,” said Rachel Maina, BMI Research Associate. “I hope that the findings of this workshop can encourage change in this status quo in institutions and other systems meant for people with lived suicide experience.”
Suicide prevention initiatives benefit significantly from the perspectives of people who have lived through the experience. Personal understanding and knowledge of their journey can govern the design of prevention planning, treatment, and education and lead to improved care and safety to reduce suicidal ideation (thoughts and feelings of suicide) and deaths. In addition, those who have lived experience can offer hope and resilience to those who are suicidal and support those in recovery.