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Samaritans Lived Experience Panel – how people with lived experience of suicide and self-harm shape our work

Samaritans’ services rely on our amazing volunteer base to deliver 24-hour emotional support to people who need us. However, there are lots of other ways people voluntarily support Samaritans’ work, including through our Lived Experience Panel.

Samaritans Lived Experience Panel was launched in May 2021 and is an online panel of people who have lived experience of suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, self-harm, bereavement by suicide or Samaritans' service use. The panel are invited to share their views on different aspects of Samaritans’ work via regular online surveys.

As of May 2023, the panel has over 500 members from across the UK and Republic of Ireland who have signed up to voluntarily share their insights to inform our work.

How has Samaritans Lived Experience Panel shaped Samaritans’ work?

The panel have completed 30 surveys since May 2021, informing work across Samaritans’ teams, including:

  • Organizational practices for working with people with lived experience
  • Guidance, resources and training for the Online Excellence Program
  • Samaritans’ work influencing suicide prevention policy
  • Fundraising and awareness raising campaigns
  • Strategy and business planning
  • The development of Samaritans’ Listening services

The panel have been key in shaping some of our key projects, such as the Small Talk Saves Lives campaign. Panel members provided feedback on a storyboard of a film developed for the campaign, which encourages members of the public to reach out and make small talk if they notice a person appearing distressed. The panel told us what they felt the key messages of the film were, which was important to ensure these aligned with the aims of the campaign. They also fed back that aspects of the characters' appearance perpetuated negative stereotypes of people who are suicidal. The panel's valuable feedback was fed directly into the development of a more sensitive and effective campaign film.

Developing the panel

Two years on, we have done some research into the panel to understand how well it’s working. Our research involved engagement with Samaritans’ staff and panel members using surveys, a focus group and analysis of pre-existing data.

We’ve had some really positive results from our research and also some further areas to work on, including how we can offer a greater range of support for panel if they were to become distressed. We will be developing our response to these recommendations in the coming months to ensure the experience of being a panel member is as positive as possible for people who are voluntarily sharing their time and experience with us.

If you would like to volunteer to join and share your experiences, or know anyone who might be interested, please visit to find out more about the Samaritans Lived Experience Panel.

Please note: Samaritans’ Lived Experience panel is a voluntary activity. However, at Samaritans we believe that people with lived experience who work with us in other ways to shape or inform our work (e.g., helping to shape and deliver research, equal member of steering groups, Board sub-committees, Research Ethics Boards) should be paid for their skills, experience and time.

Ellie Ball, Research & Evidence Officer and Michelle Jones, Lived Experience Researcher
17 May 2023