How Can Peer Support Programs be Used in Community-Based Youth Suicide Prevention?

The second leading cause of death in youth is suicide. With mental health promotion, early intervention and accessible services, suicide can be significantly reduced. Although we have seen interventions involving adults (e.g., teachers, counsellors) what about youth themselves? We know that peers are often the first point of contact for youth in distress, and are also highly influential in adolescent decision-making and thought processes. So, to what extent can other youth with similar lived experiences help youth at risk? Our project focuses on systematically reviewing research evidence on peer support programs related to youth suicide prevention. The findings from our review will be shared with youth, who will be engaged in co-design workshops about how to best implement a peer support program in a rural Alberta community.

Presenters and slide deck

Lisa Gilchrist, Executive Director, Stony Plain FCSS and U of A

Lisa Gilchrist has been Executive Director of Stony Plain Family and Community Support Services since May 2016. Her team’s community development efforts centre on preventing and reducing poverty, building healthy relationships, supporting positive mental wellness, and enhancing inclusion and diversity with a focus on volunteers, seniors, and youth. Previously, Lisa spent fourteen years in leadership with the federal government to deliver employment programs. Lisa holds a Bachelor of Arts from Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, British Columbia and a Masters’ of Professional Studies in Community and Economic Development from the Pennsylvania State University. She is Chair of the Tri-Region Youth Mental Health Hub Steering Committee for Stony Plain, Spruce Grove, and Parkland County, Alberta. Lisa has two stepsons in their twenties who are slowly moving into careers. Lisa and her husband John are happy to share their rural acreage with three Labrador Retrievers, barn cats, horses, and many squirrels.

Jackie Libon, Research Assistant, Stony Plain FCSS and U of A

Hello! My name is Jackie (she/her) and I am thrilled to be presenting at Frayme this year as a Research Assistant on my project. I am a third year Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Honors student from the University of Alberta enthusiastic about child health and research. I am driven by my passion for promoting mental health and providing client-centered care with vulnerable populations. I enjoy being kept busy through holding various volunteering and leadership positions. Some positions I would like to highlight are volunteering as a Researcher on an immunizations project, being a Peer Reviewer for Spectrum Journal, tutoring for Big Brothers Big Sisters, and being a Teachers Helper for an elementary school. I aspire to contribute to positive youth mental health outcomes and I hope that this project is one way I can do that.

Aakriti Pandit, Research Assistant, Stony Plain FCSS and U of A

I am a third-year nursing student at the University of Alberta, who has a passion for mental health, health equity, and improving youth health outcomes. In my spare time, I run a food blog and love to travel and meet new people!

Carla Hilario, Assistant Professor, Stony Plain FCSS and U of A

Dr. Carla Hilario was born in the Philippines and raised on the unceded lands of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lō and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Alberta, which is located on Treaty 6 territory. Her program of research is on equity-oriented health promotion and health care - with a focus on social determinants of youth mental health, anti-racism, and co-designing inclusive services and systems with diverse Canadian youth.

Joyce Kamanzi, PhD Candidate, Stony Plain FCSS and U of A

Joyce Kamanzi is a Ph.D. candidate at the Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta, Canada. She is a registered nurse and previously worked as a Quality Manager in Rwanda. She has a strong interest in community health as well as maternal and child health research. Her research interest focuses on people living with HIV and AIDS. For her Ph.D., she researches how to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. She assesses the challenges and barriers HIV positive mothers experience to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. During her doctoral study, she has participated in research projects in the relation of prevention of mental health crises and particular the use of telephone and text messages to prevent mental health crises. A current project focuses on peer support youth suicide prevention.


Key Learnings

  • Peer support programs are convenient and cost-effective, and can help decrease the stigma towards suicide and help-seeking.
  • Very few scientific studies have actually examined the efficacy of peer support in suicide prevention.
  • Youth peer supporters are not equipped to deal with extensive training and high-risk situations.

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