IASP 31st World Congress keynote: lived experience

Posted 21st October 2021 in IASP 31st World Congress

As part of the support for the IASP 31st World Congress 2021, the Life in Mind team attended Keynote 2: Lived Experience, and collated the key insights from speakers, Professor Vikram Patel, Dr Leilani Darwin, and Dr Stephen Scott.

Sponsored by Lifeline Australia, and chaired by Professor Brian Mishara (University du Quebec, Montreal) and Jacinta Hawgood (ClinPsych/SnrLecturer, AISRAP, GU), the keynote commenced with speaker, Professor Vikram Patel, from Harvard Medical School on preventing youth suicide: a global health priority.

Dr Patel began by detailing some of the main findings into why young people take their own life, including:

  • Due to the way brains develop, young people are biologically primed to act the way they do. This means youth have high rates of learning and memory; but on the other hand it presents a greater vulnerability when young people place themselves in high-risk environments.
  • There is strong evidence that adverse childhood experiences have a large impact on suicidal ideation later on. Youth undergo dramatic transitions – from being completely dependent to non-dependent adults, which can present a number of threats and vulnerabilities.
  • Structural toxic environments, for example, eco-anxiety is felt by many youth who are worried that adults have “trashed the planet”. There are also very polarising views and politics that threaten the future of the world; and intergenerational trauma, particularly experienced by Indigenous populations.

Dr Patel continued to explain what this means for suicide prevention efforts, such as, intervention and prevention efforts during early years, and the focus on childhood and adolescent education and their environment can have an overall impact.

The next speaker, Leilani Darwin, Director, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Strategy at the Black Dog Institute, presented on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lived Experience Centre in elevating and empowering the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples with Lived Experience across the mental health and suicide prevention sector. The role of the centre includes service design and delivery that is culturally in-tune, providing support where it’s needed, ensuring it is evidence-based and best practice delivery, and that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people develop material for their communities.

Highlighting the importance of having uncomfortable conversations, Leilani said that there’s a space of feeling uncomfortable and this is part of the work we do which is saving lives.

“Where this comes from is the need to save lives. Our people struggle because they don’t feel valued or heard. Our people feel lesser – they don’t feel they are seen as accomplished or have as many achievements. I tell people that the expertise you bring with your lived experience is invaluable. You’ve paid an incredible price to have that lived experience. We are going to bring these people to the table to be heard, to be able to shift things. When everyone participates genuinely – we will be able to work together to address the serious issues.”

Dr Leilani Darwin in response to the Q&A on Indigenous people and pain that comes from being over-represented in rates.

The final speaker, Dr Stephen Scott, National Partnerships Manager, StandBy Support After Suicide, spoke about lessons from real-world, at-scale implementation of a suicide prevention system centring people with lived experience of suicide.

Dr Scott provided reflections and recommendations from his experience working on the Towards Zero Suicide initiative in NSW:

  • Suicide prevention crisis should be considered as situational distress rather than mental illness. Suicide prevention efforts should be located outside of the mental health system, but make suicide prevention within the mental health system a key priority.
  • Use systems thinking for coordinated suicide prevention systems with people with lived experience at the centre.
  • Co-design and co-produce more non-clinical alternatives.
  • Move from co-design to co-production.
  • Services to increase lived experience throughout their activities.
  • Leaders of suicide prevention services facilitate increased lived experience involvement.

Chair, Jacinta Hawgood wrapped up the session by acknowledging how thoughtful energies have been expended to ensure lived experience is included in suicide prevention.

If you or someone you know has been impacted by this information or needs help, please phone Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back on 1300 659 467. If you are in immediate danger, phone emergency services on 000.