themighty logo

12 Tips for Sharing Your Story When You're a Suicide Loss Survivor

The author’s son

I wanted to get involved in suicide prevention work soon after my son, Tom, died. When I expressed my desire to speak on the subject, mental health and prevention professionals encouraged me to wait two years and to connect with online and in-person resources first. It was difficult for me to hear their recommendations because I had passion and energy to put towards the work, but because I waited and followed their suggestions, I have been welcomed into the local prevention community as a stakeholder and now present to a broad range of groups.

Here are a few important items I have learned about how to approach suicide prevention through research and talking with professionals:

  1. Instead of starting the work soon after your loved one’s passing, wait until you are a few years into your grief journey, so you are able to speak passionately but not emotionally.
  2. Instead of rushing into the work and speaking from a place of only your experience, take the time to do research and verify you are following best practices.
  3. Instead of being unsure if your presentation is suitable for certain audiences, ask mental health and prevention experts to review your presentation for appropriateness.
  4. Instead of allowing your emotions to flow, keep them in check so your audience can focus on your message rather than your feelings.
  5. Instead of speaking extemporaneously, plan what you want to say so you can practice and are prepared to control your emotions.
  6. Instead of focusing on the devastation of the suicide’s aftermath, focus on the hope which available interventions provide.
  7. Instead of discussing the means your loved one used, present ways to limit access to suicide means.
  8. Instead of using emotionally charged or guilt inducing language, speak to the facts of the topic.
  9. Instead of speaking to assemblies or large groups of people, present to people in groups of about 25 so listeners feel safe.
  10. Instead of discussing a precipitating incident which you believe led to your loved one’s death, discuss suicide’s risk factors.
  11. Instead of presenting by yourself, invite mental health or prevention professionals to join in the conversation.
  12. Instead of working on your own, join a local prevention coalition so you are working with others who are passionate about and also invested in the work.

We want to tell our stories and there is value in doing so, but it is important we do it in ways which are safe and productive for our listeners. Please make the effort to be a positive and vigilant force for education around this important topic.

Image Credits: Kimberly A. Starr

Getty image by wavebreakmedia