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National summit: Making history



Last week, a national task force of suicide attempt survivors met for a groundbreaking summit. Within weeks, we’ll release a smart report on the kinds of support, and the changes, we’d like to see. Also at the table were a handful of allies, all of them playing national roles in the suicide awareness field.

“I can’t say how glad I am to no longer be the only voice of attempt survivors,” said DeQuincy Lezine, a psychologist and author who’s been “out” for nearly two decades. Now it’s a growing movement, with murmurs of starting a national, or international, organization of our own.

Major summit themes included the need to emphasize recovery, the need for attempt survivors to play meaningful roles in messaging and policy making, and the crying need for anyone working with suicidal people to drop their risk-driven fears.

Fatalism can be fatal. “I’m not a lost cause. I’m a person,” said Tom Kelly, who went from homelessness and multiple attempts to working as a resilience manager for a behavioral health company. It was just one emotional moment as the summit ended.

The event also drew followers in Australia, the UK and elsewhere. “People with an interest in #suicide prevention should run, not walk to this discussion,” said one.

Here are details, through tweets (#LivedExpSummit) and comments at the scene. A Storify is available with even more:

The term ‘lived expertise’ is totally catching on today among suicide attempt survivors and others. #LivedExpSummit

@eduardomhasf was only ‘out’ attempt survivor at recent int’l suicide awareness conf. Nearly 1,000 attendees. What?

“We should recruit ppl w lived exp in policy development regarding #suicideprevention. Seems obvious, not done,” @drlezine

“We do not support forcing people into treatment. That needs to be specifically said.” @leahida

“Ppl need to know they can disclose suicidal thoughts & that they will get help, not get punished,” S. Sinwelski

@tgkelly ‘I haven’t had a suicide attempt since 2001, since I became an advocate, since I developed meaning and purpose.’

‘Right now, the system is evaluate, medicate, vacate.’ What happened to helping? – CW Tillman

‘Running from it actually puts (the suicidal person) more in peril.’ John Draper with the Lifeline, on clinicians’ fear.

Still amazed that not every health provider isn’t even trained (much less well-trained) in suicide prevention. Obvious?

“Suicide is not a choice, it is akin to cancer where it comes upon you.” @davidwcovington

If have 25% each of researchers, care providers, loved ones at the table, need 25% attempt survivors. @davidwcovington

We need to focus on “what’s strong not what’s wrong” — person centered, strength-based care plan instead of safety plan.

“Treatment should never feel like punishment.”

A possible message to the system: Suicide isn’t our failure. It’s yours. (Or, ‘Do YOU have a plan, doctor?’)

Richard McKeon: ‘Amazing avoidance our systems have in dealing with suicidal people.’

‘We need to find a way to celebrate survival.’

‘It dawned on me the magnitude of this moment … the respect and dignity given to all of us.’ – Heidi Bryan

‘I’ve always been considered a client. This is the first group where I haven’t felt that way.’ – Carmen Lee

@davidwcovington Comparing #suicide attempt survivors to LGBT pride mvmnt. “Someday we will say ‘what were we thinking?'”

‘Every issue has its moment. Every issue has its time. Now is the time.’ – Jerry Reed

“It’s incredibly unjust that ppl struggle in systems that don’t work. What I heard today has a lot to do w justice,” J. Reed

The summit led into a broader Tools for Change conference on mental health, with several sessions on attempt survivors:

‘The last thing I’m gonna do is call a hotline or 911.’ @eduardomhasf breaks down common breakdowns in suicide crisis response.

#tfc2014 Very common for mentions of suicidal thinking to be shut down right away. Even by therapists.

@samhsagov data shows 9 million people a year in US have seriously considered suicide

‘The amount of training that mental health providers get in suicide prevention is shameful.’ – @sspencerthomas

@eduardomhasf says after suicide attempt he was fired, kicked out of apt. Now he leads national movement to end that silliness.

@drlezine says one example of needed change: Including attempt survivors on all @Action_Alliance task forces.

Wow, our panel asked how many ‘out’ suicide attempt survivors are in the room … And several raised their hands! It’s happening.

6 Comments Join the Conversation

  1. Good to see this is happening. As an attempt survivor, I kept silent about it for too many years, and everyone around me kept silent, as if I did not exist. Finally, I put my experience in a book that no one wanted me to write.


  2. YES!!!!!! We in southeastern MA are wrapping up a documentary on this very issue – welcoming the voice of the attempt survivor to the strategic planning table from the local coalition to the state, nationally & internationally. “A Voice at the Table” will have its public health debut at the 2014 MA State Conference for Suicide Prevention, 2nd day, April 17th, following the ground breaking keynote by author & healed attempt survivor, Craig Miller.


  3. I wish I could have attended one. If there is ever a summit in California, I would love to receive information on it in order to attend. What a life changing event! It feels so good to know that one is not alone in fighting this stigma.


  4. I am a survivor of a suicide attempt about a year and a half ago. All though im doing better. I feel kind of lost.
    I go to dioctor appts, take anti-depressantmeds, hold a job but never really met anybody who knows what its like to survive a suicide attempt… Theres comstant guilt that hangs over my head… No one in my family really knows what this is like… Im lucky to have support and most importantly lucky to be alive but i need to find people who knows what its like to survive. Maybe they can shed some light on coping skills.

    Are there support groups out there for people who have attempted suicide. I live in NJ.


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