Development and pilot study of a suicide prevention intervention delivered by peer support specialists

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Psychol Serv


Suicide rates in the United States have been increasing in recent years, and the period after an inpatient psychiatric hospitalization is one of especially high risk for death by suicide. Peer support specialists may play an important role in addressing recommendations that suicide prevention activities focus on protective factors by improving hope and connectedness. The present study developed a peer specialist intervention titled Peers for Valued Living (PREVAIL) to reduce suicide risk, incorporating components of motivational interviewing and psychotherapies targeting suicide risk into recovery-based peer support. A randomized controlled pilot study was conducted to assess the acceptability, feasibility, and fidelity of the intervention. A total of 70 adult psychiatric inpatients at high risk for suicide were enrolled into the study. Participants were randomized to usual care (n = 36) or to the 12-week PREVAIL peer support intervention (n = 34). Those in the PREVAIL arm completed an average of 6.1 (SD = 5.0) peer sessions over the course of 12 weeks. Fidelity was rated for 20 peer support sessions, and 85% of the peer specialist sessions demonstrated adequate fidelity to administering a conversation tool regarding hope, belongingness, or safety, and 72.5% of general support skills (e.g., validation) were performed with adequate fidelity. Participants' qualitative responses (n = 23) were highly positive regarding peer specialists' ability to relate, listen, and advise and to provide support specifically during discussions about suicide. Findings demonstrate that a peer support specialist suicide prevention intervention is feasible and acceptable for patients at high risk for suicide. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved).

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ePub ahead of print