Sharing lived experience with mental illness or mental health challenges is both difficult and courageous, especially when speaking to a group of your peers. It’s also meant to be a positive experience for the individual sharing. To ensure that happens, providing proper speaker support for someone looking to share their lived experience is necessary and important. You want them to feel safe, supported, and confident when their moment arrives.
Speaker support isn’t a straightforward process, so for a more detailed and in-depth look at best practices we suggest you refer to the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) Headstrong Toolkit for Training Speakers. To get you started, here are a few important principles of speaker support from the MHCC Headstrong tool-kit and our experience with Balancing Our Minds:
- The health and wellness of your speaker is the main priority – don’t rush them to speak until they are comfortable and ready to go.
- Speakers reserve the right step down from a speaking engagement at any time if they do not feel comfortable speaking. It is important to communicate this from the start.
- Let your speaker know the lines of communication are always open.
- Building trust between yourself and your speaker is a large part of speaker support.
- Don’t rush the process! Individuals reach milestones at a different pace and that should be celebrated. Speakers will be ready when they feel ready.
- Remember to debrief. Support doesn’t end once the speaker has presented – debriefing is an important step in supporting your speaker and bringing the experience full-circle.
If you’re currently looking for speakers for an event in your school or community, please visit our Speakers section of the Balancing Our Minds site!