Engaging People with Lived Experience

People with lived experience are individuals who have first-hand knowledge of suicidal thoughts and behaviors because they have lived through one or more suicidal experiences. When planning your suicide prevention efforts, be sure to solicit the unique perspectives of people with lived experience and engage them in prevention planning, treatment, and community education.

Why It's Important

  • People who have attempted suicide are more likely to die by suicide. Engaging them in their own care can help reduce suicide risk among this group.
  • People with lived experience can serve as models of hope for others at risk for suicide.
  • The insights of people with lived experience can be extremely valuable in prevention planning, treatment, and education, contributing to improved care, enhanced safety, and reduced suicide attempts and deaths.
  • Involving people with lived experience in your suicide prevention efforts can help increase awareness and understanding of suicide and mental illness among members of your team and others who participate in your activities.

What You Can Do

  • Embrace the core values (see below) identified in The Way Forward,1 a resource developed by the Suicide Attempt Survivors Task Force of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention.
  • Hire people with lived experience to contribute to your suicide prevention efforts (e.g., by serving as a speaker in an educational program). Do not invite them to participate only as guests.
  • Involve people with lived experience in decisions about their own treatment and care.
  • Engage them to provide peer support for people at risk for suicide.
  • Partner with peer support services and organizations operated by people with lived experience, especially if you provide crisis and emergency services.


Core Values for Supporting People with Lived Experience 

All activities designed to help attempt survivors, or anyone who has been suicidal, should be consistent with one or more of the following core values:1

  • Foster hope and help people find meaning and purpose in life
  • Preserve dignity and 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



  1. Suicide Attempt Survivors Task Force. (2014). The way forward: Pathways to hope, recovery, and wellness with insights from lived experience. Washington, DC: Author.