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.

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.