Author: Georgie (they/them) is a queer, mad and disabled non-binary human. They are someone who has experienced suicide, a disability advocate, and a survivor of a psychiatric diagnosis. They founded the LGBTQ+ Alt2Su group that runs Wednesday 6-7:30pm AEDT (more details below).
You can read other lived experience stories here.
What is the philosophy/rationale behind Alternatives to Suicide?
Alternatives to Suicide (Alt2Su) is a peer-run, non-clinical approach to talking about suicide and deep emotional distress that focuses on building connections, sharing and collective healing. It was created by the Wildflower Alliance in 2009 as an alternative to clinical, mainstream models of suicide prevention.
Many people who have experienced suicide have been pressured into silence by systems and by society. With these groups, we aim to give people their voices back and provide a space where they can talk openly without the fear of coercion, pathologisation and unnecessary escalation. Coming together with other people who have been through similar experiences and who are also navigating life’s challenges is a powerful alternative to mainstream forms of care.
We created a LGBTQ+ Alt2Su group because we saw the need for community connection in a space where they can bring their whole selves, without fear of judgement. The LGBTQ+ community continues to face forces of systemic oppression, so carving out these safe spaces is really important.
What can someone expect from attending an Alt2Su group?
When you come to our Alt2Su group, you are coming to a space with peers who have experienced similar challenges in a completely non-clinical setting. During the groups, people can talk openly about suicide, support each other, and share ideas of how to cope or move through those feelings.
We see our groups and approach as an opportunity to turn crisis into learning, by encouraging people to make meaning of their own experiences and explore how they define healing or “recovery”. To do this, it’s important that people are able to talk without being censored or silenced. This means people can talk about what they are going through without the fear that their power will be taken away from them by non-consensual escalation.
We also encourage folks to attend both when they are in crisis, and when things are feeling better for them. This way we are able to hold space for all experiences, share ways we navigate hard times and also celebrate joy. No matter what brings someone to the group, and regardless of how hard things may be for them, they are welcome.
Who are the peers that facilitate Alt2Su groups and what training do they get?
The groups are facilitated by two peers who have their own lived experience of suicide. They are highly trained in the ‘Alternatives to Suicide’ approach and provide non-judgmental support that doesn’t mirror carceral, clinical approaches. Although our facilitators share their own stories and experiences, everyone who comes to the group is seen as the expert in their own lives and valued for the wealth of knowledge that they bring to the space.
What are the benefits of peer-to-peer support?
Peer support is incredibly powerful. The connection between people who have had similar experiences cuts through so many barriers and power imbalances that may occur at clinical, mainstream supports. When we allow for connections that are based around solidarity and mutuality, we create containers where we can have, and hold conversations that honour self-harm and suicide without jumping to judgement or responding with fear.
I think that is even more important when we look at the LGBTQ+ community. Our history of resistance is heavily embedded in peer-to-peer support, and we have always relied on each other to navigate and survive systems of oppression.
There’s something to be said about sitting in a room with other people who are all showing up authentically and with vulnerability and knowing that you are not alone.
How can someone access an Alt2Su group?
The LGBTQ+ Alt2Su group runs weekly on Wednesday at 6-7:30pm AEST via Zoom. Our groups can be attended by anyone in the community and from any location. To maintain the privacy and safety of those who attend, we ask that folk email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive the recurring meeting link.