In this edition of Three Questions, we speak to Shilla Patel. Shilla is a member of the Lived Experience Network run by the National Suicide Prevention Alliance (NSPA), she also sits on our Product Review Steering Group.
Thanks for taking part in Three Questions, Shilla! Can we start by asking you how you became involved with the NSPA Lived Experience Network?
I got involved with the NSPA in July 2021. I discovered the charity when I was looking for an organisation to sign up to for World Suicide Prevention Day for the London Fire Brigade, where I worked at the time as an Inclusion Manager. I currently work for a charity, Against Violence and Abuse (AVA) as a Training and Events Co-ordinator. I noticed there were further opportunities to train as a Lived Experience Influencer. I wanted to become involved as I have anxiety, depression and PTSD and have myself previously struggled with suicide ideation and attempts. As a woman with disabilities, someone from a Asian, Indian, Kenyan and LGBT+ background, I was initially anxious about the diversity of other members of the Lived Experience Influencer group. I had only really seen research on white males or young people, and so didn’t know whether others like me would come forward. This is due to the silence and stigma in our communities, but also we have rarely been reached out to.
To my surprise on the first online get together with NSPA, the diversity was incredible and it made me feel less alone in a world where we as individuals and communities can feel invisible and not heard. For me I wanted to be able to use my own lived experiences of the stigma I have encountered in my community, externally and when accessing services. I also wanted to utilise my expertise as a training and inclusion and diversity professional. I am really grateful to NSPA for empowering me to be able to share my experiences and abilities through the projects I have been involved with.
What projects have you been involved in?
I have been involved in numerous projects since joining up as a Lived Experience Influencer with NSPA. This includes supporting Samaritans with the development of their diversity and inclusion strategy. As part of their Suicide Consortium, I’ve provided advice on different projects to do with researching particular communities, such as the LGBT+ communities and those on low incomes. I’ve also presented at NSPA’s national conference in 2022, speaking about the importance of diversity and inclusion in suicide prevention interventions.
I have used my lived experience and training experience to work with Storm Skills Training as part of their Product Review Steering Group, acting as the lead lived experience representative from NSPA and working with other influencers to obtain their feedback. This has been an exciting and empowering experience as Storm has really listened to our voices and opinions as lived experience influencers and incorporated many of our suggestions. We’ve advised on how to deal with difference, supporting families and friends, the importance of support for those on the frontline and on content for their case studies. The Product Review Steering Group has worked extremely well with us as lived experience influencers which will ensure that the new training packages are inclusive, powerful and relevant.
Are there any big issues in suicide prevention that you are particularly passionate about?
As an individual who is from multiple minority groups I am extremely passionate about ensuring diversity and inclusion runs through all suicide prevention projects, initiatives, strategies and plans. Much work has been undertaken on particular groups, but there are so many more which have been omitted and excluded. This includes people from Black, Minority Ethnic groups, disabled, those from the LGBT+ communities, traveller communities and those on low incomes. In addition, intersectionality is crucial and individuals will be part of several groups, facing multiple discrimination.
At the moment, research is limited, so are we getting a ‘real’ picture of the extent of suicide in these communities? If not, are the services that are available appropriate and relevant? Lastly it is essential that the voices of these underrepresented groups are accessed and listened to, and that they are part of decision-making processes.
A huge thank you to Shilla and everyone on our working group. We are excited to share developments on Version 5 with you all in the next few months!