The American Association of Suicidology (AAS) is a professional organization dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide. The AAS hosts an annual conference that brings together researchers, clinicians, crisis center staff, persons with lived experiences, and others interested in suicide prevention and intervention. The American Association of Suicidology’s Annual Conference is considered a prestigious event within the field of suicide prevention.
The AAS conference provides an opportunity for attendees to learn about the latest research, innovative prevention and intervention strategies, and best practices in the field of suicidology. The conference typically features keynote addresses from prominent researchers, leaders, and clinicians in the field, as well as a wide range of presentations, workshops, and panel discussions on topics such as suicide prevention in schools and colleges, crisis intervention and management, and suicide among specific populations such as military veterans, BIPOC communities, and LGBTQ+ individuals.
In addition to educational opportunities, the AAS conference provides a forum for networking and collaboration among attendees. Participants can connect with others in the field and learn about new resources, research opportunities, and ways to participate in suicide prevention efforts.
The AAS conference is an important event for advancing the field of suicidology and promoting collaboration and innovation in suicide prevention efforts. It is an excellent opportunity for professionals, survivors, and community members to come together, learn from one another, and work toward a common goal of reducing the incidence of suicide and supporting those affected by it.
The conference has a highly competitive and selective submission process, and only a limited number of presentations are accepted annually. Nevertheless, the association receives many submissions, and each proposal undergoes a rigorous review process before being accepted or rejected. Therefore, submitting a strong proposal and having relevant expertise in the field of suicide prevention increases the likelihood of being accepted to present at the conference.
Getting a speech or presentation accepted at the American Association of Suicidology’s annual conference can be challenging. Still, I was lucky enough to have my More Than a Story speech chosen and selected as one of a handful of keynotes for the event.
One of the main points of my speech was that sharing lived experiences with suicide can have nuanced positive and negative impacts. While it can be empowering for the person sharing their story and providing valuable insights for the audience, it can also be triggering and retraumatizing if not approached carefully.
We must be mindful of how we engage with, and center lived experiences and reexamine our expectations of sharing them. We can proactively address stigma and improve our inclusion practices by challenging biases. This means creating opportunities outside of sharing trauma-centered stories to highlight lived experiences and empowering those with lived experiences to lead efforts and strategies.
In my speech, I provided approaches to sharing foundational lifeworld knowledge by inviting and incorporating those with lived experiences into all aspects of the work. Attendees gained an understanding of the impact public presentations have on those with lived experience, both speakers and audience members. They were presented with clear impacts that superficial engagement strategies have played on perpetuating stigma and lessening visibility around lived experience. By doing so, we can expand practices to complement the current body of research and evidence. Ultimately, this benefits those with lived experience who learn how to better self-advocate for their care based on their needs.
It was an honor to hold the stage and speak to the importance of broadening the inclusion of Lived Experiences in this work, where more than 1,000 were in person this week, with several hundred tuning in across the globe.
I had long imagined myself sharing in this space, and now having seen it happen has allowed me to realize one dream and look to the future of what I can do in this work. I hope to continue bringing innovation and progress to how I center lived experiences in everything I do. But more than that, I hope I never forget that lived experience should be the driving force in this field.