Since working for Harmless I have attended two conferences, my first was the Suicide Prevention and Intervention Network (SPIN) in Aylesbury. My second, further North, was the Suicide Bereavement conference in Manchester. These are my first experiences of connecting with the wider community and so I thought I would take a minute to share my reflections of them.
As you enter these vast noise-filled spaces, weighed down by the heavy banners and numerous leaflets you have packed tightly into a carry case, your senses are overloaded by the hubbub of people who move continuously betwixt one another, similar to that of a river’s current. The main force of the current comes from the entrance of the room where you find yourself advancing with a stream of people until you come to the calmer central space. Here you look around and quickly find yourself a place to dock. Whilst setting up your stand and raising the banner, your heightened senses pick up on the strong smell of coffee and tea and you feel drenched by the chatter of various accents. No sooner have you placed your last set of leaflets on the table then you are swamped by a multitude of curious faces and smiles. I have always enjoyed meeting new people and networking is a wonderful opportunity to do just that. You delve straight into conversation with the first inquisitive person who happens to catch your eye…and you’re off. I have never been one to brag and I was worried networking would involve a lot of bragging about how amazing our company is. However, I learnt this is not entirely the case and that in fact a lot of the time I found myself telling a story, telling my organisation’s story, my own story and the story of those who were not there to tell theirs.
Pretty quickly time catches up to you and your story telling is interrupted. You leave the safety of your dock in exchange for a foldable seat, before which is a podium and bright lights. Whilst you catch your breath and take in the sights around you, it is not long before you are absorbed by numerous speakers, all of whom speak with enthusiasm and passion for their cause. You can’t help but feel that same sense of passion as you hear their words wash over you.
For me the greatest achievement is when you see your organisation change a life. To help even just one person is enough to remind you of what you are fighting for. It puts your ideology into reality. One life seems so small but look into the eyes of that individual and your cup is overflowing. It is more than enough to know that saving lives really is the priority. Underneath all the protocol and financial strains I dare anyone to stare into the eyes of someone in need and see them as a statistic or a figure.
I have learnt a lot from my first couple of conference visits and look forward to attending more over the coming years. I hope to fortify the friendships I have made and continue to develop my own learning whilst always striving to save lives, even if it is only one life at a time.