SurvivorVoices: sharing the story of suicide loss program on National Best Practice Registry
CONCORD, NH – Dec. 13, 2011 – Stories of suicide loss told from the heart are powerful. SurvivorVoices: sharing the story of suicide loss was recently listed on the National Best Practice registry, a directory of programs reviewed by a panel of experts and managed jointly by SPRC (Suicide Prevention Resource Center) and AFSP (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention).
SurvivorVoices: sharing the story of suicide loss is part of the Connect suicide prevention training program developed by NAMINH. NAMI NH has extensive experience training people to tell their personal story as a way of educating the public and reducing stigma about mental illness. Building upon this expertise, the two-day SurvivorVoices training was developed by combining key aspects of NAMINH’s speaker training, information from its Connect training programs, and knowledge gained by working directly with survivors of suicide loss. A Train-the-Trainer option is also available in a three day format.
SurvivorVoices: sharing the story of suicide loss teaches those bereaved by suicide how to speak safely and effectively about their loss. By speaking about personal loss, survivors can promote healing and understanding, which in turn supports suicide prevention efforts. Becky McEnany, the program’s coordinator, explains, “When survivors speak about their loss, it touches people in a different way than hearing the facts and figures - it is a story about a real person who was loved and is missed.”
Audiences who hear a survivor sharing their very personal story leave carrying that story and the lessons learned. They can then use that knowledge to help others. Becky adds, “Through personal stories, we can learn about risk factors, warning signs, resources, how to help people at risk, and have compassion for those who have lost a loved one to suicide”.
Research shows the words and content used to speak about suicide can be very influential in both positive and negative ways. While unsafe language can inadvertently put vulnerable individuals at higher risk for suicide, speakers who adhere to safe messaging in a carefully prepared story serve to educate others about suicide, reduce stigma and increase helping-seeking for mental illness.
“SurvivorVoices is great because survivors of suicide loss are key stakeholders in raising awareness of suicide prevention in the community”, says Christina Sloan Benton, Virginia’s Suicide Prevention Manager who contracted to use the program. Benton adds, “It’s important for survivors to know how to tell their story effectively and safely – safely is the key.”
“SurvivorVoices gave me my voice”, comments Linda Mayo, a Vermonter who participated in the program. “It helped me so much and now I can help others when I’m out there speaking. I can feel it in their eyes – it’s making an impact. Learning about safe messaging makes it easier to speak about my loss because I know where I should and shouldn’t go.”
While some individuals who take SurvivorVoices may never share their story publicly, participation in the training helps them with their own grief process and connects them with other survivors. Ms. McEnany has observed some positive collaboration that emerged from SurvivorVoices training such as the participants starting a survivor’s support group, making a LifeKeeper quilt project, initiating suicide awareness activities, or having the confidence to address unsafe communication in their community.
Sharing stories and messages in a SurvivorVoices training is very personal and intense. The small group of eight or less allows time for mutual support, healing, sharing and caring among participants. Participants are interviewed prior to the training to ensure they are emotionally ready to tell their story without having a setback in their own healing.
For more information to bring SurvivorVoices to your community visit the website: www.theconnectprogram.org.
NAMI New Hampshire