Postcard from Northern Ireland

I welcomed the opportunity to return to Ireland last month – after almost thirty years!  This time however, I was not backpacking around the beautiful country, but rather attending and presenting at the International Association of Suicide Prevention’s World Congress, held in Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

It was a privilege to be there as a co-chair of IASP’s Special Interest Group (SIG): Lived Experience and to be presenting alongside fellow colleagues and friends, the recent research and evaluation outcomes of some of Roses in the Ocean’s work.  An enormous contingency of about eighty Australians attended the Congress (10% of all delegates), many of whom were presenting on the international stage an array of incredible work that is occurring here at home.

There were too many stand out presentations to mention them all, but some interesting themes were evident this year that were not so prevalent at the previous Congress two years ago, beginning with the fact that there was both a Lived Experience Panel session and a Lived Experience Symposium on the program!  The importance of including lived experience in initiatives and research was more frequently referred to, as was the apparent increased appetite for qualitative research.  Local research linking the impacts of trauma related to “The Troubles” and suicide rates in Northern Ireland are devastating and yet not surprising given our knowledge of trauma and indeed intergenerational trauma.

As co-chair of the SIG: Lived Experience I had the opportunity to present to another Special Interest Group focused on the development of National Suicide Prevention Strategy in countries currently without any, especially third world countries.  I spoke of the importance of meaningful engagement of people with a lived experience of suicide from the outset of planning.  This is of course not as easy as it sounds when some cultural beliefs and laws still view suicide as a crime.  Certainly, there are challenges and one of the goals of the SIG: Lived Experience is to work alongside other SIG’s to support them to involve lived experience in their work.

It was wonderful also to hear of the progress being made by James’s Place, a non-residential, psychosocial program for men experiencing suicidal crisis in the UK.  Prior to the Congress a few of us had the opportunity to visit Pieta House, another non-residential service located in numerous places in and around Dublin, offering a similar program to people experiencing suicidal ideation.  As always, there was much to learn, and the generosity of others to share their knowledge was fabulous.