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The Way Forward – Peer Support

The Way Forward: Pathways to hope, recovery, and wellness with insights from lived experience is a resource developed by the Suicide Attempt Survivors Task Force of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention that provides recommendations for suicide prevention activities that blend evidence-based practices and perspectives informed by lived experience. Here are the recommendations related to peer support services:

Part 1: Attempt Survivors as Helpers ‒ Self-Help, Peer Support, and Inclusion

Recommendation 1.1 – Practice: Develop, evaluate, and disseminate self-help materials for persons who have lived through a suicidal crisis.

Recommendation 1.2 – Practice: Provide information about self-advocacy to every attempt survivor.

Recommendation 1.3 – Practice: Encourage attempt survivors to participate in community activities.

Recommendation 1.4 – Practice: Explore religion and spirituality as potential resources in collaboration with the attempt survivor and his or her support network.

Recommendation 1.5 – Practice: Encourage attempt survivors to participate in exercise and physical activity when it can enhance wellness and recovery.

Recommendation 1.6 – Program: Develop, evaluate, and promote support groups specifically for persons who have lived through a suicidal crisis; such groups are encouraged to use a peer leader or co-facilitator.

Recommendation 1.7 – Policy: Establish training protocols and core competencies for peer supports around suicidal experiences, and methods for assessing them.

Recommendation 1.8 – Policy: Provide warm line staff with basic training for working with suicidal callers, including how to refer or transfer callers to crisis services.

Recommendation 1.9 – Program: Develop certified peer specialist positions that are specific to lived experience of a suicidal crisis.

Recommendation 1.10 – Program: Develop a national technical assistance center focused on helping individuals with lived experience of a suicidal crisis.

Recommendation 1.11 – Policy: Train human resources staff at agencies and organizations that hire disclosed persons with histories of mental health challenges or suicidal experiences in best practices for supporting those employees.

Recommendation 1.12 – Practice: Train agency/organizational leaders and managers working with persons with lived experience of a suicidal crisis on protecting confidentiality and privacy while also facilitating support for their employees.

Recommendation 1.13 – Practice: Engage attempt survivors as partners in behavioral health and suicide prevention efforts.

Recommendation 1.14 – Program: The Task Force should work with key partners to assemble a diverse workgroup to develop guidance for meaningful inclusion of attempt survivors in suicide prevention and behavioral health efforts.

Recommendation 1.15 – Policy: Every Task Force of the Action Alliance should recruit attempt survivors as members. This will demonstrate that the suicide prevention community values them and their expertise.

Recommendation 1.16 – Policy: Agencies and organizations at all levels (federal, state, community, etc.) should explicitly endorse, or require, inclusion of attempt survivors in suicide prevention efforts.

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