Reconnecting with life – the vital role of peer workers, family and friends in suicide prevention

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High quality, coordinated follow-up care has the potential to reduce suicide attempts by almost 20 per cent but it doesn’t always require clinical mental health treatment.

The strongest predictor of a future suicide attempt is a previous suicide attempt. High quality, coordinated follow-up care has the potential to reduce suicide attempts by almost 20 per cent but it doesn’t always require clinical mental health treatment.

According to Tim Heffernan, Mental Health Peer Coordinator for COORDINARE – South Eastern NSW PHN, peer workers employed in follow-up care with mental health and suicide prevention services can contribute to positive outcomes for people with mental illness or suicidality.

“Peer workers have experience recovering from mental health issues, and can provide a different level of understanding. Peer work is about supporting each other in a compassionate way, listening to people and sharing their journey,” said Tim.

“Support like this from a peer worker can be just as effective as seeing a psychologist, but this support and compassion could also come from a mate or family member.

“There are lots of supports available that can help people reconnect to their family and community so it is important to reach out for whatever kind of support you need,” said Tim.

Support from friends and family also plays a significant role in the recovery process of someone following a suicide attempt.

“Support can be offered in different ways and by talking with the person you can identify what would be most useful for them,” said Dr Fiona Shand, Research Director of LifeSpan.

“It might include taking them to appointments, going to the gym together, assisting with household duties or even cooking some meals.

“It may also be useful to encourage them to use problem-solving and coping skills so that they can begin to change habits in the way they think and cope with life's challenges,” she added.

“Assisting the person to find stable employment or to get access to legal aid, housing support, relationship or grief counselling, or free financial counselling services might also be useful. This can ease some of the stress and burden that the person may be facing,” said Dr Shand.