What is lived experience?

SPA defines ‘lived experience' as having experienced suicidal thoughts, survived a suicide attempt, cared for someone who has attempted suicide, been bereaved by suicide, or been touched by suicide in another way.

Why is lived experience important in suicide prevention?

At SPA we believe that there is wisdom gained by those who have been touched by suicide and that in order to prevent suicide we need to harness this wisdom. At the same time, it is vital that all people involved in suicide prevention are well supported, are kept safe, feel empowered, involved, valued and respected and that we do no harm. We advocate for people with lived experience of suicide to have an equal seat at the table when developing policy, strategy, services and programs as well as research and evaluation. We believe that this will enrich our understanding of suicide and its prevention.

SPA sees a future where we, as a sector and a community, trust that we are able to establish, implement, monitor and evaluate models, frameworks, programs and research that involve – rather than isolate – those with lived experience. We will draw from the wealth of knowledge and experience available to us from within suicidology and combine this with the wisdom offered by those who have lived through suicide.

Guiding principles on the inclusion of lived experience in suicide prevention 

The SPA guiding principles on the inclusion of lived experience in suicide prevention are:

  • People with a lived experience have a valuable, unique and legitimate role in suicide prevention
  • Lived experience helps change the culture surrounding suicide and to preserve and promote life through compassion and understanding
  • Inclusion and embracing diversity of individuals, communities and cultures enriches suicide prevention
  • Empower and support those with lived experience to share their insights and stories with a view to preventing suicide
  • Utilise our lived experience to educate, promote resilience, inspire others and instil hope
  • People with lived experience support, advocate for and contribute to research, evidence-based practice and evaluation
  • All suicide prevention programs, policies, strategies and services will at all levels include genuine meaningful participation from those with lived experience
  • Encourage and nurture collaboration and partnerships between organisations and stakeholders.

How we got to where we are today

Australia is recognised a leader in meaningful inclusion of lived experience in suicide prevention. Our national Lived Experience Network is recognised by our peers and other key stakeholders as the definite group for access to a rich diversity of individuals with lived experience of suicide. International colleagues look to the development of this group and Australia's approach to inclusion of lived experience to guide their own initiatives such as United Survivors International in USA. 

We are honoured to draw upon the knowledge and wisdom of the Lived Experience Network and are particularly grateful to lived experience advisors from across the country who work with us to amplify the voices of lived experience.

The work we do in this area today could not be possible without those who stood up and spoke up about the importance of including lived experience as a valid voice in the suicide prevention sector. Thank you to all of those who made the robust debates happening around key decisions on suicide prevention possible today.

A little bit of background

In May 2013, SPA brought together representatives of some key national organisations who work directly with those touched by suicide along with members of our Lived Experience Committee. Together, we set about the task of developing a draft strategy that would allow for those with a lived experience of suicide to be valued and respected in Australian suicide prevention activities: the Lived Experience Network Strategy.

We would particularly like to acknowledge members of the Lived Experience Committee, Lived Experience Network Leadership Group and SPA team member, Jo Riley, for the innovative and empathetic way in which they developed the foundations on which we work in this area. Our heartfelt thanks to Dr Mic Eales, John Bradley, Jennifer Coulls, David Kelly, Bronwen Edwards, Ngaree Ah Kit, De Backman-Hoyle, Lauren Breen, Allan Sparkes and Hayley Purdon.

We thank and acknowledge Lifeline Australia, National StandBy Response Service (United Synergies), Wesley LifeForce, Hope For Life, SANE Australia, ARAFMI Mental Health Carers, the Hunter Institute of Mental Health and Mindframe Media for their contribution to the Lived Experience Network Strategy. We would also like to thank and acknowledge Monika Goertz of Inovision and Maureen Ngan of Waterfield for their skillful facilitation of the strategic planning workshop.

The draft strategy was launched at the SPA Members & Experts Forum on 24 July, 2013, as part of the National Suicide Prevention Conference. SPA opened the draft up for community consultation and feedback via a survey. This strategy informed development of the national Lived Experience Network and our ongoing focus on meaningful inclusion of lived experience in everything we do to prevent suicide.

If you would like to talk to a member of our team about our lived experience work, please email us or give us a call on 02 9262 1130.