Creating Hope: Using co-design for engaging youth in the development of a peer support model for suicide prevention

University of Alberta

Did you know that suicide is the second leading cause of death in youth? How about the rural youth have higher rates of suicide due to less accessability to mental health scervices? Or that involving the community in mental health wellness can improve these rates? What about that youth are rarely engaged in creating programs that will service them? Our project engaged youth (15-24 years old) in co-design workshops following design-thinking stages to develop ideas around a peer support model for youth suicide prevention. This project has the potential to be implemented within a rural community and will serve a population that was involved in the development of the project. We hope that by engaging youth in the development and implementation of this project, the acceptability and effectiveness of the peer support program will be higher.


Jackie Libon
Hello! My name is Jackie and I am in my final year of the nursing honors program at the University of Alberta. I am passionate about public health, child health and research. I have learned immensely from being supervised under Dr. Hilario as part of my honors program and her research in mental health has been influential in guiding my future career. In my free time, I like to read, learn about cultures through travel and stay active.

Jarlo Alganion
Hello, my name is Jarlo, and I am in my final year of the after-degree nursing honors program at the University of Alberta. I have a previous degree in biological sciences with a minor in psychology. I chose to go into my current program because I am interested in the healthcare field, public health, and research. Collaborating on our research project has allowed me to learn new skills, develop my professional skills, and will help guide my future career. In my free time, I like to try new foods, workout, and play sports. 

Carla Hilario
Dr. Carla Hilario is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Alberta. Her program of research focuses on health equity and mental health promotion with diverse youth.

Cheryl Pronovost
My name is Cheryl and I am the Youth Services Supervisor for the Town of Stony Plain Community and Social Development Department.  I manage the day to day operations of the Stony Plain Youth Centre where the youth of our community are welcome to participate in programs and activities.  It has been a pleasure to spend time with youth and provide a safe and caring space for them to be in the after school hours.  In my spare time I enjoy spending time with family and friends.

Key takeaways

  • Immediacy of lived experience:
    • Identifies barriers of youth who need support: coping, inequities and covid-19 impact
    • Allows us to grasp the current experiences of rural youth around mental health
  • Belonging in the community:
    • Looks at how one can reduce barriers of those who need support: community support and programs, social media for connecting and sharing experiences, stigma and misrepresentations of mental health
  • Preferred futures for youth mental health services:
    • Participants ideas and visions for responsive youth mental health care and suicide prevention in heir community: enhancing accessibility of support, one stop shop for mental health (intergrated care model. All programs for mental health available in one place)
  • There is an ongoing need for funding in the mental health sector
  • All youth reported changes to their lives due to the covid-19 pandemic
  • Peer support could be a potential use for suicide prevention to address the mental health needs of youth living in rural communities

Key Learning Objectives (defined by presenters)

  1. Raise awareness of the current situation for youth, particularly those who are living in rural communities (i.e.,accessibility of mental health services, importance of community services, barriers to care, etc.)
  2. Demonstrate what the participants found most important in terms of mental health services and resources
  3. Engage the audience in discussing the role of social support (particularly peer support) in improving youth mental health outcomes and preventing suicide. By doing so, we plan for the audience to become more informed about the needs of youth living in rural communities and emergent models for improving access y to mental health services.  

Key Themes

  1. Lived experience
  2. Barriers/challenges to mental healthcare
  3. Peer support 

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