Engaging People with Lived Experience

People with lived experience are individuals who have experienced a suicide attempt, suicidal thoughts and feelings, or a suicide loss. 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 with lived experience can serve as models of hope for others at risk for suicide and who have lost someone to suicide.
  • The insights of people with lived experience can be extremely valuable in prevention planning, treatment, and education, contributing to improved care, enhanced safety, reduced suicide attempts and deaths, and improved support for loss survivors.
  • Involving people with lived experience in your suicide prevention efforts can help you to better tailor your approaches to meet the needs of those with whom you are working.

What You Can Do

  • Embrace the core values (see below) identified in Section 1 of 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 being actively engaged in the planning and implementation of prevention efforts). Do not invite them to participate only as guests.
  • Involve people with lived experience in decisions about their own treatment and care.
  • Engage people with lived experience to provide peer support for people at risk for suicide and affected by a suicide.
  • Partner with peer support services and organizations operated by people with lived experience, especially if your organization provides 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 core values below.1 These values are also relevant for suicide loss survivors.

  • 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


Reference: National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention: Suicide Attempt Survivors Task Force. (2014). The Way Forward: Pathways to hope, recovery, and wellness with insights from lived experience. Washington, DC: Author.