Jo Langford – StandBy National Lived Experience Coordinator
Jo proactively works within the StandBy National team and with StandBy regions across Australia to support, enhance and develop the voice of lived experience across all aspects of the program.
In October 2013, my world changed forever when my husband David died by suicide. I was in the most pain I had ever felt, and one person I would normally lean on for support was the one I was grieving. The only thing that came close to the feelings of pain and loss was the intense and all-consuming loneliness. With three children watching their mum to see what was next, I had to find a way to ensure what was next was going to be a step towards a future that held happiness.
I needed to connect with others who had been widowed and were creating new lives for themselves. I found The Brisbane Young Widows and Widowers Peer Support Group. My fear at the first meeting was huge, unlike the others in the room that day who had lost their spouses because of Cancer, Heart Attack and long-term illnesses, my husband had taken his own life. I feared that the stigma around that would make me unwelcome in the group. I was not ashamed of the way my husband died, I saw him battle his depression for 3 years, accessing help and fighting to live each day until the day he died, however I was unsure if this group of people would understand. They may not have understood his suicide, however they did understand my pain and loss. This group, while allowing me space to feel a part of a collective grief, would also change the direction of my career; I eventually went on to coordinate and in turn became instrumental in my journey towards the wonderful life I now have.
Prior to joining the StandBy team, I worked in the suicide prevention and grief/loss space for 5 years. Before my loss, I worked for many years acting, teaching, directing, and writing. I love to combine my lived experience with my creative skills, I have spoken at many events and written and performed spoken word poetry about my lived experience. I have written a play about suicide postvention and I am currently working to bring the voice of lived experience front and centre across a range of projects for StandBy.
My wonderfully resilient children bring so much joy to my life and our closeness and sense of fun, along with the work I do at StandBy, is an incredible way to honour my husband.
I am passionate about using my lived experience and empowering others bereaved by suicide to recognise the value their voice can have in the suicide postvention and prevention sector.
My goal is to see the voice of lived experience be the norm in all workplaces within the sector.