Lived experience of suicide
A lived experience of suicide is having experienced suicidal thoughts, survived a suicide attempt, supported a loved one through suicidal crisis, or been bereaved by suicide.
(Adopted by the International Association for Suicide Prevention and World Health Organisation)
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lived Experience definition
(The Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Lived Experience Centre also co-designed a definition for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people)
A lived experience recognises the effects of ongoing negative historical impacts and or specific events on the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It encompasses the cultural, spiritual, physical, emotional and mental wellbeing of the individual, family or community.
People with lived or living experience of suicide are those who have experienced suicidal thoughts, survived a suicide attempt, cared for someone through a suicidal crisis, been bereaved by suicide or having a loved one who has died by suicide, acknowledging that this experience is significantly different and takes into consideration Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples ways of understanding social and emotional wellbeing
People who have experienced suicidal thoughts, been through suicidal crisis, or made an attempt on their life are best placed to inform how we can best support others in crisis.
People bereaved through suicide, know what is and isn’t useful when it comes to supporting them to understand and adapt to their ‘new normal’.
People who have cared for a loved one through suicidal crisis are acutely aware of fear, helplessness and conflicting emotions feels like – and what helped them help their loved one.
We recognise that many others within our communities are impacted significantly by suicide through their work.
This is lived experience of suicide.
A unified Lived Experience of Suicide movement
The Lived Experience of Suicide movement is unique in the sense that it is unified across the depth and diversity of lived experiences – people who experience suicidal thoughts, people who have made a suicide attempt, people supporting loved ones in crisis and people bereaved by suicide have for many years worked together, appreciating and learning from the unique experiences of each, broadening our own perspectives and in many ways finding healing through greater understanding. Many people with a lived experience of suicide have experience across numerous pillars of lived experience. There is much respect amongst the lived experience of suicide movement, and this collective and focused drive to improve how people are supported is the foundation for the significant in-roads the movement is making.
Why partnering with people with lived experience of suicide is crucial
Conceptualising suicidality as exclusively a mental health issue fails to appreciate the situational and social distress that often leads people to ending their lives or attempting to do so. Poor living circumstances, relationship breakdown, loss of a loved one, drug and alcohol use, bullying, a lack of social support, the onset of disability, chronic pain, economic and legal problems, and a history of trauma have all been shown to contribute to an increased risk of suicide.
Furthermore, people who are bereaved by suicide also sit under the umbrella of lived experience of suicide and as bereavement from suicide is not a mental illness, these people are not captured through traditional mental health consumer and carer perspectives. It is essential that the unique features of someone’s lived experience of suicide are recognised if we are to meaningfully harness their unique insights and wisdom in efforts to improve suicide prevention.
The need for the distinct voices and expertise of people with lived experience of suicide to be included in suicide prevention activity has been formally recognised in several key national reports:
- Shifting the Focus: A national whole-of-government approach to suicide prevention in Australia – a report developed by the National Suicide Prevention Taskforce as part of the Prime Minister’s Adviser on Suicide Prevention’s Final Advice
- Productivity Commission Inquiry Report on Mental Health – recommendations point squarely to the need for a Whole of Australian Government (WOAG) approach to suicide that is informed by, integrated with, and implemented through the critical voices of people with lived experiences of suicide.
The lived experience of suicide approach to suicide prevention
Until recently, the prevailing focus on research and clinical expertise too frequently failed to see the person, and their loved ones, at the centre of a crisis. Often, the support available is under stress, difficult to access, of highly variable quality and frequently inappropriate for recovery from suicidal crisis.
This needed to change urgently.
Such change is, and will continue to be, driven by the new and innovative approach of viewing those with a lived experience of suicide as experts when designing, developing, implementing and evaluating suicide prevention activities. We know from listening to people with a lived experience of suicide that non-clinical environments and services staffed with a combination of peers and community support workers, would best support people to connect with a life they want to live. It is these insights which serve the crucial purpose of informing and leading reform in not only health systems, but the wider suicide prevention system people with a lived experience of suicide dream about and are working tirelessly to create.
Lived experience of suicide is our heart and soul
Lived Experience of suicide is embedded in all levels of our organisation – every person who works with Roses in the Ocean, including our staff, facilitators, mentors and workshop readiness callers, have their own lived experience of suicide. We also have a number of Lived Experience Directors on our Board and our Lived Experience Advisory Committee is embedded in our Constitution and reports to our Board.
Resources for lived experience representatives
Roses in the Ocean has worked with members of our Lived Experience Collective and sector colleagues to create the following resources to support people with lived experience of suicide in their suicide prevention activities.
Roses in the Ocean embraces the depth and diversity of lived experience of suicide and empowers people inform, influence and lead all aspects of suicide prevention from a position of partnership and collaboration. By building the capacity and confidence of people to bring their unique expertise to suicide prevention reform, people with lived experience of suicide can collectively design and deliver innovative solutions and services that meet our collective and individual needs.
We believe that:
- People with a lived experience of suicide bring insight, wisdom and perspective that is critical to informing the best practice approaches to reducing emotional distress and pain and saving lives.
- People with a lived experience of suicide have the potential to draw on their insights, to facilitate impactful local suicide prevention solutions that drive positive change in culture and services, contributing to healthy and sustainable communities.