Taking the Next Step: A Qualitative Study Examining Processes of Change in a Suicide Prevention Program Incorporating Peer-Workers

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November 10, 2021

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Brooke Van Zanden1, 2 and Vida Bliokas1
1 School of Psychology, University of Wollongong
2 Graduate School of Health, University of Technology Sydney

 With suicide being a leading preventable cause of death[1], Brooke Van Zanden and Vida Bliokas from the University of Wollongong and University of Technology Sydney, set out to examine the role of peer work and clinical services in the critical period following a suicide attempt.

 Interviews with GPH peer workers and clinicians from the Next Steps Program identified several factors that workers believed to be critical in facilitating change for participants of the suicide prevention program:

  1. Utilising lived experience: Workers felt that the lived experience of peer workers helped people feel understood. Peer workers were seen as role models for recovery and assisted program participants in navigating support services. 

  2. Emotional availability of peers: Peer workers were able to sit with difficult emotions and provided regular and intensive support following participant discharge from hospital.

  3. Building lives worth living: The program provided hope for participants by focusing on existing strengths and clarifying goals.

  4. Providing consumer driven care: The program was viewed as most helpful when it was flexible in meeting the needs of program participants, and when it promoted a sense of autonomy to empower people to take charge of their own recovery journeys.

  5. Consultation between peer workers and clinicians in the context of risk: Workers agreed that collaboration amongst one another helped in providing quality care for participants.

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[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018

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