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‘My heart is full’

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photo(2) Misha Kessler, Dese’Rae Stage, Samantha Nadler, Craig Miller

A lot just happened. In the last five days, the American Association of Suicidology created a division for attempt survivors and anyone who’s been suicidal; The New York Times published a story on that and the public emergence of attempt survivors; at least four “out” attempt survivors spoke at full-conference sessions; three attempt survivors were named to the new AAS speakers’ bureau; the documentary team behind the well-regarded “Of Two Minds” took footage for a new film on attempt survivors and loss survivors; three “out” professionals spoke and got a dozen people in the audience to raise their hands about their own suicidal experience … and the amazing people in the photo above brought standing ovations and sniffles as they spoke on a “New Voices of Attempt Survivors” panel and basically blew the doors off stigma.

Listen to it here. You don’t want to miss it.

“I went to my share of Grateful Dead concerts over the years,” one audience member, Ken Norton, who “came out” last year, told the crowd afterward. “It was always sort of like you went, you kept going, hoping you would get to the gem, like that really memorable show? That’s what this presentation was.”

That’s enough for this week’s post! And here are just a few samples from the busy social media chatter tagged #AAS14:

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‘The bravest people I know’

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This week’s post is by Cheryl Sharp:

I sometimes hesitate to put in my 2 cents worth because I do work for a large organization that has the voices of lived experience involved but was, admittedly, pretty late to do so in leadership positions.

While my specific work is based on the voices of trauma survivors, my experience is as a trauma and attempt survivor. I want to address the idea of “who’s ready for prime time” in speaking about their personal experience.

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‘What I might call my soul’

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This week’s essay is by Jim Probert:

Having worked for years in a professional world before I came out as a peer, I know it can feel so profoundly demeaning when even genuinely compassionate people talk about us as if we were a separate species.

At the same time, when I’m offering recovery-oriented ideas to grad students and interns in my role as a psychologist, sometimes one will be honest enough to say, “I’m afraid if I do anything unconventional, I’ll be sued or fired.” I think many professionals realize the need for change but fear they must do exactly what they were taught, or risk being held responsible for anything that goes wrong in the lives of the people they are trying to help.

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‘I survived, and he didn’t’

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Not too long ago, Harry Miree sat down in front of a camera and opened his journal. It’s best to watch his video before reading further.

Harry was pleasantly surprised to learn about this growing movement of “out” attempt survivors. “It’s like the past seven years, this entire universe has been contained in my own head,” he said in a recent phone call. “It’s such a ‘don’t talk about it’ kind of thing. I’ve never seen anything like this.”

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‘We should be clear about who we are’

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Meet Rory Butler. He’s the founder of the Canada-based mental health group Your Life Counts and an outspoken attempt survivor. This post grew out of a recent conversation about his idea of founding an international organization for attempt survivors, which easily would be the first of its kind.

One of the first issues to be addressed is language. A national summit of attempt survivors this month in the U.S. seized on the term “lived expertise” as more empowering than having “lived experience” of suicidal thinking.

Rory argues that in a world where we’re trying to make the unspeakable speakable, we should be as clear as possible about defining who we are:

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National summit: Making history

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summit

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.

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‘To make what I did wrong right’

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This week we hear from Christine O’Hagan, who writes about opening up to colleagues and others as a high-achieving Texas businesswoman. Good timing, as the director of psychology at a top-ranked U.S. psychiatric hospital wrote this weekend about this website and what his field should think about our emerging voices. It’s worth reading.

Thomas Ellis comes off as kind of nervous, but he’s trying to understand. It’s a good glimpse of why the mental health field still moves as cautiously as it does around us. “These are arguably vulnerable people putting highly sensitive information ‘out there,’ where it cannot be controlled by the AAS or anyone else,” he writes. “Or are these perhaps paternalistic sensitivities of an overprotective clinician, viewing these individuals as less resilient than they actually are?”

We tend to agree with that second part. And now, here’s Christine:

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‘There’s such a need for this’

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This week, the Canadian activist who tweets at @unsuicide takes us on a tour through the online world of crisis response, where the suicide awareness establishment acknowledges it’s still largely clueless. In the conversation ahead: social media suicide hoaxes, what Twitter does wrong, the need for transparency, why hotlines are outdated, why trained peers are crucial, and how to walk the oh-so-careful law enforcement line between tracking people down for help and scaring them away.

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‘Out of the shadows’

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The TED site has posted this essay. And here’s some news:

American Association of Suicidology takes groundbreaking step to engage people who have been suicidal

Washington, D.C., Feb. 5, 2014. The suicide rate is estimated at one in about 10,000 people. For people who have survived a suicide attempt, the risk is far higher. Today, the American Association of Suicidology (AAS) is taking a crucial step to engage this significant population: It is working to create a new division that will give people with the lived experience of suicidal thinking a chance to have a stronger voice in the field of suicide awareness.