A coproduction project involving volunteers with experience of the impact of suicide has so far generated an incredible body of work which aims to inform, inspire and support people working in health, care and beyond as well as those in crisis for years to come.Some of the volunteers, pictured during a recording of their 'Preventing Suicide' film.jpg

The project – funded by West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership and facilitated by Leeds Mind – was first launched in 2022 to bring the voice of lived experience into suicide prevention work across West Yorkshire.

Around 20 volunteers (some pictured right) from across the area were recruited and all have experience of the impact of suicide – either having been suicidal themselves, bereaved by suicide or have supported someone else facing mental health challenges.

Over the past two years, they have worked together to use their experiences to create a variety of vital resources, partnerships and projects which they hope will lead to change and make a real difference to others in the future. 

Here is a summary of some their work so far:

  • A ‘Community Conversations’ project to capture people’s experiences of mental health support. These will feed into a report to make recommendations for changes to the health and care system.
  • A ‘Book of Cope’ showcasing people’s positive mental health coping strategies (due to be pulished in March).​​​​​​​guidelines front cover.png
  • Writing a set of guidelines offering best practice for health and care staff for involving those with lived experience. 
  • Making a film, called ‘Preventing Suicide: Communication, Support and Follow Up’, which speaks directly to health and cares staff about their experience of good practice within mental health services in West Yorkshire.  
  • A blog on the suicide prevention website, written by one of the volunteers, sharing their story.
  • A bereavement support leaflet, created in collaboration with Leeds Mind Suicide Bereavement Service (SBS), offering simplified, concise support.    
  • Involvement in regional pieces of work such as:
    • with Yorkshire Ambulance Service, on a cribsheet for callhandlers of crisis calls;Arlie Haslam pictured at a table during the BOok of Cope sessions.jpg
    • on the role of pharmacists in suicide prevention and;
    • on work to explore the impact of memorials and tributes at locations of suicides.
  • Launch of a podcast series on suicidal crisis using insight from frontline health and care staff during discussions.  

Speaking at a recent WY HCP board meeting, Arlie Haslam, the project’s co-ordinator at Leeds Mind, (pictured above, right) said:

“For some, the project has been a way to action their grief, and for others, it has been a way to regain their power in a system which has failed them. For all involved, the strength of a collective voice, of people who understand, has been healing.”

She quoted one of the volunteers, Debbie, who said:

“Being a part of this project has given me hope, and it has enabled me to make tangible change.

“Knowing that projects I have worked on through this platform have already had such a positive impact brings me a sense of relief and gratitude like nothing else I have ever experienced.”

Also speaking at the meeting, Alyson, another volunteer, said:

“Volunteering with the suicide prevention initiative volunteer role has been liberating and empowering. Which may sound unusual words to use when discussing this topic. Yet, what we are doing is helping people to feel heard and seen, to feel and be valued.

“I know personally that I have found my voice again by being given one through this project. Through utilising lived life experiences, you gain real and raw insight into the struggles and stigma surrounding mental health challenges, with the real aim of changing systems and procedures within the mental health arena.

“This is why it is so important to involve us experts by lived experience and believe it is the way forward.

“This project has given the voice to so many that have been silenced, ones who can make a difference with partnerships such as these.”