Facing my fear of public speaking to become a lived experience media spokesperson representing those navigating life after suicide

By Ellie Hatto, June 2023

I was amazed at the poise and confidence my friend and colleague exhibited as she addressed a roomful of people from across the UK to celebrate the one-year anniversary of her community interest company, set up to transform the way children and young people are supported after suicide bereavement, particularly a parent or primary caregiver. 

She explained that she put much of it down to the media spokesperson’s training programme she’d recently completed, delivered by the charity Sounddelivery Media, for leaders with lived experience like us who want to create positive change in and for our communities.

An amazing opportunity

Fast forward three months and I received a much-awaited phone call late one Friday afternoon to say that I had been selected to join the very same programme for 2023. 

With over 60 applicants for 14 spaces, competition was fierce. I was overjoyed when I got “the call”, despite (over)thinking it was going to be a case of “thanks, but no thanks”. 

Somehow it felt like the programme was designed just for me. I was excited at the prospect of developing my skills and amplifying my voice in my area of expertise – life after suicide – building on my existing work in the field following my 82-year-old dad’s death by suicide in 2013. 

Photo credit: Caleb Woods on Unsplash

Feel the fear (and do it anyway?)

I soon realised that for me, the way to overcome this challenge is a commitment to accepting my fear, working with it and not letting it stop me from edging towards my goal of becoming an effective media spokesperson. 

A case of “feel the fear (and do it anyway)”, (incidentally, the title of the first ever “self-development” book I ever read, by Susan Jeffers, way back when). I’ll do it my way and that is good enough. 

Photo credit: Tengyart on Unsplash

Why this matters

Representing the needs of those navigating life after suicide is important and an ongoing source of drive and passion for me. I have spent many years engaging with people whose lived experiences of suicide are invariably different, but with distinct similarities in terms of their responses, needs and challenges faced, following this often devastating and life-lasting event. 

Photo credit: Ian Schneider on Unsplash

Imposter syndrome

It seems like I’m not alone in my fears, with many also experiencing imposter syndrome, especially prevalent with experts by experience. This might be because there are no qualifications in lived experience and therefore no benchmarks to compare our worth with more “established” and “accepted” professions and job roles. This reassures me that I am not alone in my fears and well, if you can’t beat them, join them. 

Practice makes progress

Thanks to what I learned at the recent three-day programme residential and the inspiration I gained from my fellow colleagues, I have already started tackling my fears head on by recording my first vlog and guess what, I am starting to enjoy it. Yes, I stumbled over words at times and didn’t like looking at myself, but I’ll get over it. Also, there are many inventive methods to put your point across that suit individual levels of comfort, expertise and confidence. 

On the last night of the residential, there was an open mic night. I wanted to push myself and perform something, but I didn’t know what. I settled on a simple poem that I wrote just before dinner. I dedicated it to my fellow colleagues and it felt good to stand up against the beautiful Warwickshire sunset and deliver it to everyone.  

On the evening I returned from the residential, I announced to the group of friends (who had kindly invited me around for an al fresco dinner) and family I was with that I had written and presented a poem the previous evening and was pleased that I had. Of course, they said they wanted to hear it too. I didn’t overthink it but got up, delivered it and the evening continued. 

I’ve got this

In one short week, I feel I have achieved so much. It’s onwards and upwards from here and I can’t wait to continue with the programme, learn more, grow in confidence and utilise my lived experience of life after suicide to its fullest potential, despite and in spite of my fears of public speaking. Watch this space!

Photo credit: Samuel Clara on Unsplash

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