Writing again about new thinking emerging on suicide prevention – The Way Forward: Pathways to Hope, Recovery, and Wellness with Insights from the Lived Experience, 2014 .
There are eight core values The Way Forward’s Task Force agreed should be behind all activities designed to help attempt survivors, or anyone who has been suicidal:
- Foster hope; help people find meaning and purpose in life
- Preserve dignity; counter stigma, shame, and discrimination
- Connect people to peer supports
- Promote community connectedness
- Engage and support family and friends
- Respect and support cultural, ethnic, and/or spiritual beliefs and traditions
- Promote choice and collaboration in care
- Provide timely access to care and support
I deeply agree with these core values.
Fostering hope is the very first item. It must be so: Help finding hope can be a comfort, for even small hopes are so valuable. Let’s embrace interactions with the suicidal person that boasts their dignity, for chances are they have only a fragile self-respect — but all of us cling to our dignity. Connecting to peer support can be helpful; working with someone who has been there, knows what is what, someone who can be empathetic and a role model to boot. This is both wise and practical. Connecting to the community brings belonging, meaning and purpose from the community into the self. Thus respect and support for cultural, ethnic and/or spiritual beliefs is a fundamental good within human interaction. Promote choice and collaboration! Don’t we all need to have a say in our care, no matter the circumstance? Choice and collaboration gives us some respect and some feeling of effectiveness in our own care. Timely access to care. Indeed, when people have strokes or symptoms of heart attack, they expect fast, efficient life-saving care. The systems to provide that care exist in every little hamlet and metropolis. Surely we can create a system that continues care through and after a suicidal crisis, care that is intensive, smooth, protective and effective.
“For many years, suicide prevention has not engaged the perspectives of those who have lived through suicidal experiences,” declares The Way Forward.
Let me finish with a word about the two leaders behind this initiative. They are, respectively, a survivor of suicide attempts and mental health advocate and, the other, a psychologist with years of experience working with people in suicidal crisis: Eduardo Vega, MA, Executive Director, Mental Health Association of San Francisco and John Draper, PhD, Project Director, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
It is the hope of the Task Force and it’s co-leaders that The Way Forward will help bridge conversation about suicide prevention between mental health policy makers and consumer advocates. As a stimulating and thoughtful resource, it “…may enable these two powerful forces for change to come together and develop new, more effective approaches to reducing suicide attempts and deaths”.