Leah Harris, M.A.

Mother, Advocate, and Storyteller

Leah Harris, M.A., is a mother and advocate who has written and spoken widely about her experiences of trauma, addiction, serious mental health challenges, and resilience. She is a suicide attempt survivor who works for the meaningful inclusion of attempt survivor perspectives in all aspects of suicide prevention and care. She is featured in The S Word, a new documentary about suicide prevention, and also serves as a member of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s Consumer/Survivor Subcommittee. Leah is also a member of the Zero Suicide Initiative Faculty, where she trains health care providers on how to bring a trauma-informed approach to suicide prevention and care. She is passionate about promoting trauma-informed approaches across systems, sectors, and communities, and provides training and technical assistance with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Center for Trauma Informed Care (NCTIC). She is also the CEO and founder of Shifa Consulting, a woman-owned and operated social enterprise specializing in holistic training and support for organizations and communities seeking to utilize mind-body skills and creative expression as a part of their resilience-building efforts. She is also a storyteller who shares true stories live on stages across the Washington, DC metro area.

Keynote Address: Saturday, October 14, 2017,
10:45 AM – 12:00 PM
Sierra Building, Room 108

Living Resilience: One Woman’s Journey from Suicide to Post-Traumatic Growth
Leah Harris’ journey took her from suicidal child and adolescent to mental health advocate fighting to overhaul our systems of care. Through her advocacy work, she learned about the impacts of psychological trauma and the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study, and her entire perspective shifted. She began to look through a “trauma-informed lens,” and understand how a variety of physical and mental health conditions, addictions, suicidality, and major social problems are all connected to our childhood and adult experiences. The more she educated herself, the more she was driven to help “trauma-inform” all aspects of suicide prevention, health care, and services. She’ll talk about the values and principles of a trauma-informed approach, and share a few of her personal favorite mind-body resilience skills.

Presentation Slides: NevadaSuicidePrevention2017

Breakout Session 3: Saturday, October 14, 2017
1:00 PM – 2:30 PM
Sierra Building, Room 108

Trauma-informed Approaches to Supporting People who Self-injure
Self-injury is a coping mechanism commonly employed by survivors of childhood and adult trauma, serving a distinct purpose for each survivor. Practicing self-injury can make survivors feel “crazy” and ashamed, especially if caregivers or health care providers respond with fear, judgment, and horror. The link between self-injury and trauma has not always been recognized, but is critically important for survivors and their supporters to understand. Education and empathy are the best tools supporters and loved ones have in responding, in order to form non-judgmental relationships where healing can begin and alternative coping mechanisms explored. As self-injury survivor Ruta Mazelis notes, “a genuine connection based on mutual respect rather than on power dynamics is invaluable to those who use self-inflicted violence.”

Presentation Slides: Self-InjuryNSPC2017