S24: Creating a Living EDge: The design, testing and evaluation of a peer support service for people experiencing suicidal distress.

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By September 4, 2019 No Comments

Authors: Eschleigh Balzamo, Helen Glover, Katherine Gill

Year: 2019

Event: 2019 TheMHS Conference

Subject: Creating a Living EDge: The design, testing and evaluation of a peer support service for people experiencing suicidal distress.

Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers



Eschleigh Balzamo is the General Manager of Brook RED, a Lived-Experience governed, managed, and operated organisation delivering services to people who experience mental health concern and/or suicidal distress. Eschleigh is passionate about working into the nexus of experience and evidence and delights in working collaboratively to find creative solutions to challenges.

Kate Gill is a research scientist, a Registered Occupational Therapist and Mental Health Consumer Researcher. She is the Chair and founding member of the Consumer Led Research Network, now based at the Brain and Mind Centre, University of Sydney. Kate is also the President and Founder of FND Australia Support Services.

Traditionally when people experience suicidal distress people find themselves referred to acute health settings that are not ideally suited to respond in a timely way. Peer support can intentionally add value to people lives and is potentially a new frontier for traditional crisis services to work in partnership with peers.

The Living EDge project has designed, tested and evaluated a proof of concept peer service that aimed to (i) provide alternative pathways for people experiencing suicidal distress, and (ii) reduces the pressure on acute settings. The project utilised a Design Thinking approach and collaboratively designed with people who access and provide services to answer, “How might we design a service that uses peer wisdom to pivot suicidal distress into being a catalyst to live?

The Living Edge service design emerged as multi-pronged, offering lived experience curated experiences that are both an alternative and adjunct to the emergency department as well as access to short term individual, group and self management supports.

This paper explores the critical elements of the design and testing phases and presents its preliminary model evaluation. Being a proof of concept project the scalability issues to extend the project’s scope or replication are discussed.

Learning Objectives

Learning Objective 1: Participants will be able to:
1. Identify the critical process and partnerships required to design, implement and scale a lived experience service response for people experiencing suicidal distress.
2. Critically evaluate the contribution that lived experience service models offer people experiencing suicidal distress.

Learning Objective 2: Critically evaluate the potential that lived experience service models can offer the wider mental health service sector as an alternative and adjunct supports for those experiencing suicidal distress.


Ashcraft, L. and Anthony, W.A. (2006) “Crisis services in the living room.” Behavioural Healthcare 26(7): 12-13

Migdole, S., Tondora, J., Silva, M.A., Barry, A.D., Milligan, J.C., Mattison, E., Rutledge, W. and Powsner, S. (2011). “Exploring new frontiers: Recovery-oriented peer support programming in a psychiatric ED.” American Journal of Psychiatric Rehabilitation 14: 1-12.

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