#YouCanTalk

A closer look at the #YouCanTalk campaign from a lived experience perspective

Spotlight on lived experience insight

Jaelea Skehan, Director at Everymind, recently invited Ingrid Ozols, Director of mentalmealth@work (mh@work) to share her perspective on what the #YouCanTalk campaign means to her and how people can engage, support and connect with those who have lived experience of suicide

Introducing Ingrid Ozols, Director, mh@work

Question

Ingrid what was first reaction to the #YouCanTalk campaign?

Answer

As soon as I absorbed the messages around the #YouCanTalk launch, I burst into tears. Not from anger, nor grief, just from the yearning that I wished it had been around 20 years ago. It would have gone part of the way in mitigating some of the stigma and lack of support I experienced from friends and family because of my lived experience of suicide. It has taken me a long time to be ok with being vulnerable, to reach out and to share my feelings with others.

Question

What do you define as lived experience?

Answer

The question that many people ask is who and what is lived experience?

Anyone can have lived experience of suicide in my view. It is not just the individual’s life which is impacted by suicide, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.Many, many other lives are impacted.

Those with lived experience can come in the form of carers, friends, colleagues, partners and children.

Lived experience means someone who has experienced suicidal thoughts, survived or cared for someone through a suicide attempt or been bereaved by suicide.

If someone has a broken arm or leg, they receive empathy for their pain and suffering.Those with lived experience of suicide are also experiencing pain, it is just internalised. But it hurts and it is deep and most importantly, it is valid.

That pain may be resolved or it may still be very present but its existence and the experience of it matters.

Question

What advice would you give to people about reaching out to those with lived experience?

Answer

Don’t avoid reaching out to someone because you fear they have lived experience and you aren’t sure how to fix the problem.

Just listening, letting someone talk, voice and acknowledge their pain can be one of the most important things a family member, friend or colleague can do.

We aren’t seeking attention. We aren’t asking you to fix it. We are simply seeking validation.

At the end of the day those with lived experience are human and we are simply seeking a connection by way of conversation.

By increasing human connectedness, we can tear down the oppressive force of stigma, judgement and isolation.

The #YouCanTalk campaign means that it is no longer a choice for people to remain ignorant.

People need realise that yourself is the best thing that you can give to someone who is in a crisis.

Suicidality is temporary, the feeling can come and go and often those who encounter it need someone to be present and serve as a circuit breaker to the emotion.

A welcome pause, providing a moment to voice the pain that they simply don’t know how to deal with.

Sometimes this means just asking someone with lived experience, are you safe?

It is ok that it feels awkward or uncomfortable.

How could it not? Someone is feeling raw, real pain and you are asking them to talk about it.

But don’t let that fear stop you.

Feel the fear and do it anyway because #YouCanTalk to someone with lived experience.