Study of a Suicide Prevention Intervention Delivered by Peer Support Specialists

April 19, 2019

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark Research

A recent pilot study found that using peer support specialists to engage patients at high risk for suicide may be a feasible and acceptable way of increasing connectedness and decreasing hopelessness in this population.

Study participants were 70 adult patients with documented suicide risk who were admitted to the inpatient psychiatry units of two midwestern facilities. They were assigned to either usual care or the Peers for Valued Living (PREVAIL) intervention. PREVAIL builds on peer specialist principles, including active listening and sharing of one’s recovery story, tailored for populations at high risk for suicide. Peer specialists were trained to engage patients in safety planning, mindfulness and relaxation techniques, and strengthening support networks.

There were not enough participants in the study to confidently assess outcomes over time, but early indicators suggest that trained peer specialists were able to deliver the PREVAIL intervention with a high degree of fidelity, and participant experiences were largely positive. Although a larger number of participants is needed to fully understand whether the PREVAIL intervention reduces suicide risk, results suggest that incorporating peer support specialists in suicide prevention efforts is both feasible and acceptable.

Pfeiffer, P. N., King, C., Ilgen, M., Ganoczy, D., Clive, R., Garlick, J., . . . Valenstein, M. (2018). Development and pilot study of a suicide prevention intervention delivered by peer support specialists. Psychological Services. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/ser0000257