In 2014, Eduardo Vega hosted the “Lighting the Way Forward National Summit on Lived Experience in Suicide” where individuals with prior suicide attempts shared their expertise and experiences with more than 20 policy makers, researchers, crisis workers, and family members engaged in suicide prevention. The landmark event was the product of two task forces of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention: the Zero Suicide in Health Care Task Force and the Suicide Attempt Survivors Task Force.
Instead of token representation and a “seat at the table,” these individuals with prior suicide attempts owned the table. Fifty percent of the participants shared prior lived experiences with people such as SAMHSA’s suicide branch chief Dr. Richard McKeon and EDC’s Suicide and Prevention Resource Center Director Dr. Jerry Reed. The conversation, facilitated by National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s Executive Director John Draper and Eduardo, produced a tone and spirit unlike any we have encountered before. Suffering and courage were major themes and were described as essential elements that unite and strengthen us.
We also celebrated the milestones that had brought us to this point. Dequincy Lezine shared his experience of “coming out” as a researcher and person with lived experience of suicide twenty years ago, and the feeling of being that lonely voice. Many group members participated in the first-ever OASIS National Conference for Survivors of Suicide Attempts, Health Care Professionals, and Clergy and Laity in Memphis in October 2005 or in the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s Lived Experience Committee.
Heidi Bryan, CW Tillman, and Jason Padgett talked about their watershed plenary session on Suicide Attempt Survivors at the American Association of Suicidology conference in 2011.