Centering Lived Experience

Individuals with suicide-centered lived experience can include those who have had thoughts of suicide, survived a suicide attempt, lost a loved one to suicide, or provided substantial support to a person with direct experience of suicide.1 It is important to engage people with lived experience in all suicide prevention efforts. This can help ensure prevention efforts reflect a nuanced understanding of suicide that centers the unique knowledge, insights, and perspectives of those who have been impacted by it.

Engaging people with lived experience is key to the development of effective suicide prevention efforts and can foster connectedness and reduce stigma within and across organizations. Lived experience insights can help:

  • Identify strategic opportunities for prevention
  • Embed equity in organizational policies and procedures
  • Expand access to and effectiveness of services
  • Better address the needs of communities and populations

Establishing organizational policies and practices for incorporating lived experience in prevention efforts can help ensure it is done consistently and effectively. In addition to centering lived experience in the work, such policies can set standards for engaging people with lived experience as experts while allowing them agency in their involvement.

For example, some people who work in suicide prevention may have lived experience but may not feel comfortable working on a project that focuses on grief, while others may not want to share their experiences publicly. Creating varied opportunities for engaging lived experience, including spaces in which healthy sharing is welcome but not expected, can help empower lived experience leadership.

To incorporate lived experience in prevention efforts, consider the following: 

  • Participate in training on ethical practices for including lived experience perspectives. 
  • Review current projects, policies, and initiatives to determine where lived experience should be included.
  • Engage people with lived experience in prevention planning, treatment, and community education.
  • Identify the key stages in project development where lived experience can be incorporated.
  • Ensure various forms of lived experience are being considered and embedded in all initiatives.
  • Incorporate the perspectives of team members who have shared that they have lived experience.
  • Create outreach practices that welcome and elevate new perspectives. 
  • Establish standards for inviting and incorporating feedback. 
  • Demonstrate respect for people’s expertise and time by setting standards around compensation and acknowledgment.


  1. Roses in the Ocean. (2023).