The Suicide Prevention (SP) Peer Workforce Development Services is a suite of resources and training for the emerging Suicide Prevention Peer Workforce. It consists of specialised training for people with a lived experience of suicide wishing to work in formal peer roles within suicide prevention services, and a range of peer support services and resources for them and the organisations who engage them. Everything has been contextualised to the specific needs and nuances of working within suicide prevention through the lens of personal lived experience of suicide.
Peer Workers are in need of specific guidance around how to apply peer values, principles and approaches when supporting a person who is thinking about suicide or has been bereaved through suicide. Existing professional development opportunities for Peer Workers tend to develop skills and knowledge without exploring what these ‘look like’ in the context of suicide. Peer Workers who have a lived experience of suicide may find it personally confronting to support a person who is impacted by suicide, and lack confidence in applying their peer values and principles, as they have often been exposed to practices that deem these inapplicable when someone is thinking about ending their life. It can be difficult for a peer to ask for support in these situations due to the stigma around suicide and the anxiety of non-peers when a Peer Worker raises this topic.
Our SP Peer Worker Program delivers the key contextualisation of foundational peer support training to the specific suicide prevention service. In addition, the development of independent SP Peer Workforce Support Services for peers and the organisations who engage them will provide the essential customised wrap around support for SP Peer Workers.
The SP Peer Worker Program creates a supportive and non-judgmental space for SP Peer Workers to consider the practice guidance provided by general Peer Work 1 courses, such as Intentional Peer Support and the Certificate IV in Mental Health Peer Work, and gain understanding and skill in applying this in the context of suicide prevention. It specifically focuses on what Peer Work values, principles and approaches mean in the challenging environment of a suicide prevention service and how to work in situations that are unique to this environment. It cultivates in SP Peer Workers, a pride in the unique characteristics of peer led suicide support and an understanding of its value, which is essential for moderating stress associated with the role, workplace advocacy and the strengthening of the SP Peer Workforce. Most importantly, the SP Peer Worker Program provides the opportunity for peers to contemplate their lived experience of suicide and the factors that shape their perspective on suicide so that they may explore the role these might play in their support work.
ABOUT ITS DEVELOPMENT
Roses in the Ocean was contracted by the NSW Ministry of Health to design and develop the SP Peer Workforce Development Services including the critical, previously missing, component of contextualised curriculum for the development of the Suicide Prevention specific Peer Workforce.
A team of subject matter experts and curriculum writers from the mental health peer workforce, who also have a lived experience of suicide, were engaged to work with Roses in the Ocean to develop the suite of services. The SP Peer Worker Program is designed to build on the content covered in Intentional Peer Support (IPS) and Cert IV Mental Health Peer Work. The team who worked on this program development are collectively IPS and Cert IV trained who drew on that knowledge to identify content gaps, areas that require strengthening for the suicide contexts and also design specialist modules for each of the suicide contexts – crisis and/or attempt, bereavement, and the caring role.
Pathways into the SP Peer Workforce
The pathway to being an SP Peer worker will be as unique as the people choosing this most rewarding career path. It’s important to recognise the value that both experienced mental health peer workers and people newly engaging in peer work will bring to the role. The shared lived experience of suicide is the unique golden thread that connects everyone.
Recognising that there is no one single training solution for SP Peer Workers, and the value of previous training and experience, we highlight a suite of skill development opportunities, for peers and organisations alike, They are designed to support the specialised SP Peer Workforce navigate the nuances of lived experience peer support work in the suicide context. For some this will mean developing a new workforce for new services, while for others it will be about providing additional professional development for existing peers seeking to bring their specific lived experience of suicide to the SP Peer Worker roles.
Roses in the Ocean provides the following skill development elements:
• Organisational Readiness Training: A suite of recruitment services and resources to support the establishment of the SP Peer Workforce.
• Voices of In-Sight: a lived experienced workshop designed to develop a deep understanding of personal lived experience of suicide and recovery. It is also an essential complimentary training to existing peer qualifications.
Our SP Peer Worker series of programs builds on foundational peer support training providing specialised and contextualised training.
• SP Peer Worker (Crisis Support): for people with lived experience of suicidal crisis working in non-clinical safe spaces, blended workforce services such as Suicide Prevention Outreach Teams etc.
• SP Peer Worker (Bereavement): for people with lived experience of suicide bereavement working in post suicide support services, bereavement support groups etc.
• SP Peer Worker (Carers): for people with lived experience of caring for loved ones through suicidal crisis working in non-clinical safe spaces, blended workforce services and Carer Support Services.
• SP Peer Workforce Support Services: Once your SP Peer workers are engaged, a comprehensive program of peer support services is available including individual peer mentoring, group co-reflection and a community of practice.
These elements complement existing foundational peer training such as:
• Foundational peer support training: Intentional Peer Support.
• Cert IV in Mental Health Peer Work.
• Evidence based Suicide Intervention Skills: Living Works ASIST or Connecting with
It is important to draw attention to the distinction between the overarching Lived Experience of Suicide Workforce and the subset of this, the Suicide Prevention (SP) Peer Workforce.
The broader Lived Experience of Suicide Workforce encompasses people with a lived experience of suicide working and volunteering in a variety of roles including advisory groups, policy, research, service enhancement, co-design, regional strategic planning, community initiatives and so on. A range of lived experience capacity building is offered by Roses in the Ocean to support people develop their lived experience skills to compliment other expertise and engage in their areas of interest
The SP Peer Workforce is a specific role requiring very specific skill development, expertise and experience to work in Peer Support Worker roles across the continuum of suicide prevention from supporting people experiencing suicidal crisis and post attempt through to carers, and those bereaved through suicide.
With the current appetite for and investment in non-clinical options of care and support within suicide prevention, there is an urgent need for the parallel development of a diverse peer workforce, consisting of people with a lived experience of suicide.
The rapidly growing momentum for people with a lived experience of suicide to provide critical peer support roles embedded into services, and indeed for peer led services, has put immediate pressure on the development of a specialised lived experience of suicide peer workforce, and the need for consistency across Australia in peer workforce frameworks, skill development and support structures.
There is much to be learnt from the well established peer workforce in the mental health sector, but it is crucial that the nuances of peer support within the suicide context is not forgotten, and that special consideration is given to the different recruitment, skill development and support mechanisms required.
Of course, many people with a lived experience of suicide are already involved in suicide prevention across a wide range of roles, paid and voluntary. The emerging SP Peer Workforce will add to this ever growing lived experience workforce.
The SP Peer Workforce Development Services constitutes a foundational skill platform, and recognises the need for, and benefits of, specialised recruitment, organisational readiness, ongoing peer mentoring, group co-reflection and a myriad of additional training opportunities for specific ongoing professional development.
Involvement in a SP Peer Worker Community of Practice will further support this emerging workforce. We will go into greater detail about each of the services in the following sections.
‘peer matching’ is critical
In order to provide optimum lived experience peer support, ‘peer matching’ is crucial. The success of peer work across various suicide contexts relies on matching the nature of lived experience. For example . . . people who have experienced their own suicidal thoughts and/or made an attempt on their life are best placed to support others going through similar experiences; people bereaved through suicide are best placed to support people recently bereaved themselves; carers of people in suicidal crisis are best placed to provide insight and support to other carers.
Similarly, it is important to be able to match people with peers with similar life and cultural experience (eg Alcohol & Other Drugs / Mental Illness / LGBTIQ / specific ages / Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander / CALD).
a complimentary workforce … peer CARE companions
peerCARE companions is a two-day workshop designed for people with lived experience of suicide who are not peer support workers but have a desire to provide compassion and companionship to people. It develops their skills and confidence to provide social support and connectedness, and linkage with further supports. These people may provide valuable additional volunteer or paid roles within safe spaces, outreach services accompanying trained SP Peer Workers and clinical staff.
SP Peer Workforce support services
Roses in the Ocean has been working closely with some of Australia’s most highly regarded Peer Workforce experts from the Mental Health arena to determine what inisghts can be drawn from the development of the existing peer workforce, what barriers and challenges have been identified, and what supportive scaffolding is required to bolster the emerging SP Peer Workforce. It is important to capitalise on the excellent work that has come before us in the mental health sector, adapt and customise to meet the specific needs of the suicide prevention context.
The SP Peer Workforce Support Framework developed by Roses in the Ocean therefore builds on the considerable work already undertaken by the Mental Health Peer Work sector at a regional, state, and national level, but is explicitly informed by the Strategy for the Alcohol and Other Drug Peer Workforce in Victoria produced by the Self Help Addiction Resource Centre (SHARC, 2019). This is because SHARC’s AOD Peer Workforce Strategy offers the most pertinent example of how to develop, support, and sustain a contemporary Peer Workforce that is responsive to a specific lived experience context. It harnesses the strengths of the Mental Health Peer Workforce model, but is also individually tailored to suit the particular needs of lived experience contexts and cohorts distinct from the mental health sector.
Roses in the Ocean SP Peer Workforce Framework
Building on this existing body of expertise and resources, Roses in the Ocean has adapted SHARC’s AOD Peer Work framework specifically for the purposes of articulating the independent infrastructure required to support an effective and sustainable, quality SP Peer Workforce.