A few days after making a wonderful speech at the American Association of Suicidology conference in April, an “out” attempt survivor was abruptly fired from their job at a crisis center. After five years of promotions and no disciplinary actions, the person was told their “skill set” no longer fit and was escorted from the building.
This was outrageous, and it made us wonder whether crisis centers across the U.S. value lived experience of suicidal thinking.
This week’s post is by Tracey Medeiros, one of the stars of a new video on attempt survivors that’s drawn responses of “amazingly done” and “sharing it far and wide.” It’s been tweeted by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Suicide Prevention Australia and the Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, among others:
I’m part of the crew for a local cable program called “Voices of Hope,” and it has addressed domestic violence, teen dating violence, bullying and cyberbullying. A few years ago, we began to do more shows about suicide prevention. Typically, I’m the one behind the camera or in the control room. If I shared my lived experience, it was one on one. Until now.
During the Massachusetts state conference for suicide prevention in April, I was excited but nervous. I didn’t expect so many people to come see the new film, “A Voice at the Table.” A number of people were psychologists, psychiatrists and other clinicians. I thought, “Oh, my God! I hope they won’t be offended by what I say in the film!”
And it will speak for itself. Here’s the story behind it.
Edits continue, and don’t be deterred by the introductory note of caution. The idea behind this project is that we can talk about this openly and with confidence. And that’s exactly what you’ll see here.
This video is being explored as a training and messaging tool at the national level. Interested? Contact us.
This week’s essay is by Paolo Sambrano, a Bay Area writer and performer who created a one-man show about death and mental illness. “Despite the really dark material, it’s really upbeat,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle.
This essay, a riff on a new television show that turns personal, first aired on Slow News Day last week. Being so tied to current events, it jumped the queue ahead of a striking number of guest posts still waiting to be published. The risks of posting just once a week … As usual, we’re tweeting more news and stories daily at @AboutSuicide.
This week we hear from Danielle Hark, the founder of Broken Light Collective, the online photo gallery for people living with or affected by mental illness. She created the project at a time when she was going through severe depression, and as the site now explains, “it helped her get out of bed and begin to engage with the world again.” The site now has more than 10,000 followers.
This week, Josh Rivedal invites you to join a book project:
From January 2011 until mid-2013, I struggled with coming out of the closet … as a suicide attempt survivor, that is.
I also happen to be a survivor of suicide loss, of my father in 2009, and I have been talking about that to just about anyone and everyone who will listen since the day he died. I even dedicated my professional and creative career to helping people thinking of suicide or those who have lost a loved one to suicide.
This week, we have grassroots effort at its best. Annemarie Matulis, director of the Bristol County Regional Coalition for Suicide Prevention in Massachusetts, tells the story behind a remarkable documentary on attempt survivors that made its debut last week at the state suicide prevention conference. Plans for how to share and distribute the film are still being discussed, but early reviewers say it should be a national training tool, if not mandatory viewing.
Amazingly, the 30-minute documentary was made on zero budget, with donated time and effort. Its next showing is in mid-May, at a fundraiser for suicide prevention work and a local teen center. Here’s Annemarie:
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:
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.
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.