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 tends 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 often 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.
The Suicide Prevention Peer Worker Development Program provides a supportive and non-judgmental space for Peer Workers to consider the practice guidance provided by general Peer Work courses, such as Intentional Peer Support and the Certificate IV in 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 manage difficulties that are unique to this environment. It cultivates in 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 Suicide Prevention Peer Worker Development 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 critical, currently missing component of curriculum for the development of Australia’s Suicide Prevention specific Peer workforce. The SP Peer Worker Development Program will deliver the key contextualisation of foundational peer support training to the specific suicide contexts.
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 program, which 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 designing specialist modules for each of the suicide contexts – crisis and/or attempt, bereavement, caring role.
SP Peer Worker Development Program is a three (3) day program, where people with a lived experience of suicide will come together to train for the first two days and then on the third day, work within their speciality groups, with specialist facilitators with a matched lived experience.
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.
‘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).
collaborative recruitment and training
There is a need for specialised recruitment, rigorous training, workplace supervision, ongoing peer mentoring, peer educators to assist service providers effectively integrate peers into existing and new models of service, and access to clinical support for people with a lived experience of suicide working or volunteering in peer worker roles.
Roses in the Ocean believes there is no one organisation, nor one program suited to adequately prepare people with a lived experience of suicide to enter peer worker roles. For this reason we have looked nationally and internationally for the best evidence based, best practice and accessible programs, which, when combined, provide a broad range of foundational skills to equip people with a lived experience of suicide to engage in the highly rewarding career of SP peer support.
national and international partnerships
Recognising that there is no one single training solution for SP peer workers, and the nuances of lived experience peer support work in the suicide context, Roses in the Ocean is working collaboratively with key national and international providers, to offer a suite of skill development workshops and programs to prepare people with a lived experience of suicide for these critical roles. This suite constitutes a foundational skill platform, and recognises the need for and benefits of ongoing peer mentoring, a peer educator service and a myriad of additional training opportunities for specific ongoing professional development.
SP peer workforce development program
Stage 1 –Roses in the OceanVoices of In-Sight workshop is an externally evaluated, evidence based lived experience workshop providing the environment and process through which to explore personal lived experience and identify key insights and learnings, and how to utilise them to assist others. Before people can provide support to others through their lived experience it is important that they first develop a truly deep understanding of the insights they have gained through their experience and specifically from a recovery journey perspective.
Before people can provide support to others through their lived experience it is important that they first develop a truly deep understanding of the insights they have gained through their experience and specifically from a re-discovery and recovery journey perspective.
Stage 2 – Living Works ASIST (Applies Suicide Intervention Skills Training) is the most highly regarded intervention training of its kind internationally, and Roses in the Ocean is proud to be formally partnering with Living Works for peer development and a range of other projects.
OR Connecting with People – Originally from the UK, CwP is a suicide prevention and mitigation framework formulated from peer reviewed evidence, lived experience and specialist knowledge about suicide and self-harm prevention and treatment. The suite of tools promote a meaningful role for all those involved with the person at risk of suicide
Stage 3 – Intentional Peer Support (IPS) is an international organisation that trains people in the practice of peer support. IPS is an exciting approach and works to broaden the lens to support and enhance localised models of peer support. For nearly twenty years, IPS has been inspiring and training people in community, peer support, and human services settings all over the world to be intentional about the way they connect and build mutual relationships. IPS has been widely used as a foundation training for people working in both traditional and alternative mental health settings. Roses in the Ocean is delighted to be working in conjunction with the Australian IPS host organisation SHARC (Self Help Addiction Resource Centre).
Stage 4 – SP PEER WORKER Training leverages the solid platform and foundation that Intentional Peer Support provides.This workshop provides critical contextualisation of peer support within suicide services. The modularised nature of this workshop allows for tailoring to bereavement, crisis or carer support settings. It is completed following the previous components of skill development and is also relevant for existing peer support workers from other health settings wishing to utilise their lived experience of suicide in these new settings. This workshop acts as a bridging vehicle into the actual service within which the SP Peer Workers will engage. In the future there is potential for individual modules of this workshop to evolve into e-learning modules.
Stage 5 – Service Induction is the final preparation phase for peer support workers ensuring valuable induction into the specifics of the service they are to be working within. Service Induction is conducted by the service provider.
Stage 6 – Peer Mentoring & Peer Educators. Lived Experience mentoring commences from the first Lived Experience training through the Roses in the Ocean Mentoring Call Back Service and continues throughout the foundational training phases.
Once foundational training is complete, SPPeer Mentors, people with a lived experience of suicide who have a strong background and expertise in peer support work, provide support to SP Peer Workers. The SP Peer Mentoring model is currently under development.
A Peer Educator will provide support and guidance to service providers engaging SP Peer Workers to support the integration of the SP Peer workforce and the necessary support mechanisms (peer led critical reflection, access to clinical supervision etc)
Evaluation – Internal process evaluation underpins the entire foundational training phases focussing on quality improvement of process and implementation. External Evaluation engaged through the project or service provider focusses on the outcomes of the project or service and informs iterative re-design of service delivery.
a parallel 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.