Beyond the Numbers: The Voice of Experience

Last year during Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, we wrote about the numbers that characterized our suicide prevention work. This year we want to look beyond the numbers.

In all walks of life, we pay homage to the voice of experience. In the suicide prevention field we are beginning to do the same. The responses to our Lived Experience panel at this year’s Prevent Suicide Wisconsin conference made clear that people are hungry to listen to and to learnfrom those individuals who have lived with suicidality and survived serious attempts.

One thing that comes through loud and clear is that people living with suicidality want to be able to talk about it without fear of being taken to the hospital. This creates challenges for mental health professionals who may feel it is their duty to intervene. That is why some of the emerging practices associated with the Zero Suicide quality improvement model are so critical. They recognize that addressing suicidality is a collaborative process - one that empowers the individual with lived experience to identify what works for them.

’13 Reasons Why’ elevated the national discussion about suicide prevention, even if it did so in ways that were not always the most helpful. Interestingly, one of the responses of those with lived experience was anger at the portrayal of the lead character, who blamed everyone else for her death but took no personal responsibility. For some living with suicidality, having that option when they feel so hopeless and powerless is important, even if they don’t want or intend to exercise it. But they recognize that they do have choice.

Listening to the voice of Lived Experience continues to remind us of how little things that we do make a big difference, like this information that recently came to the Prevent Suicide website:

At the music festival, they gave out free wristbands with the number for Hopeline on it. I got one of them, and wearing it made me feel a little better on some of my bad days, even though I didn’t intend on using the number— just having physical evidence that someone out there is on my side helped.

Check out our list of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month events at (click on calendar). And when you attend one of these events, take the opportunity to talk with and listen to those with Lived Experience. It may change your life, and theirs.

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Last edited by Tyler Schuster.   Page last modified on September 15, 2017

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