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Suicide Prevention by Peer Specialists (Mini symposium, Thursday November 9th)

31 October 2017

Suicide is an important public health concern, and suicide rates in The Netherlands as well as other western countries (for instance the US) have been increasing in the past decade. Annemiek Huisman (postdoctoral researcher) and Diana van Bergen (assistant professor, Research Unit for Youth Studies) are working on a research project into the role of peer specialists with a history of suicidality who work in suicide prevention. They obtained a grant for this study from The Netherlands Organization for Health Care Research (ZonMW). Internationally, they collaborate with Paul Pfeiffer (Associate professor, University of Michigan), who has conducted the first quantitative study that measures the effects of adding peer specialist services to the care that suicidal care consumers receive, once they leave their mental health care institution.

The emergence and availability of peer specialists who work with suicidal care consumers is a recent phenomenon that fits in the emerging approach in psychiatry emphasizing recovery from mental illness. Following the initiative of care consumers who felt that their voice regarding the care they received was not heard in mental health services, a recovery-focused approach to mental health problems emerged, advocating for a person-centered, integrated mental healthcare delivery model. Although the number of peer specialists (who work within such an integrated approach) are increasing, scientifically this is a very novel field with many questions to be answered.

On Thursday November 9th, both Annemiek Huisman and Paul Pfeiffer, will present some of their (preliminary) findings in a mini-symposium at Groningen University.


14.45h.-15.00h. Coffee and Tea

15.00-15.05h. Welcome by Diana van Bergen

15.05h.-16.00h. Presentation and discussion by Paul Pfeiffer

16.00h.-17.00h. Presentation and Discussion by Annemiek Huisman

17.00h.-18.30h. Appetizers, drinks and networking opportunities.

Location: Gadourekroom in the Boumanbuilding, Grote Rozenstraat 31, 9712 TG Groningen.

You are invited to join this symposium. Participation is free of cost, however registration is needed via the following email address

Dr. Paul Pfeiffer

Dr. Paul Pfeiffer, MD, MS is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Michigan where he is the Co-Director of the Program for Mental Health Innovation, Services, and Outcomes.  He is also an Investigator with the Center for Clinical Management Research within the Veterans Health Administration (VA).  His research focuses on assessing and improving the quality of care for depression, suicide prevention, and peer support.

Suicide rates in the US and many other countries have been steadily increasing at a time when resources for mental health care and support are limited.  Peer support specialists have been increasingly integrated into mental health services in the US and represent a potentially untapped opportunity to address suicide risk.

Dr. Pfeiffer's talk will cover theoretical models, the existing evidence, and his recently completed work related to the role of peer support in suicide prevention.

Dr. Annemiek Huisman

Dr. Annemiek Huisman is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Groningen and  the VU University Amsterdam  and has researched suicide prevention for more than 10 years. Her research interests include, next to peer support and suicide prevention, quality of mental health care and suicide, online suicide prevention, and suicide prevention in youths.

Annemiek Huisman will present the first results of an exploratory study into peer specialists and suicide prevention in the Netherlands (with Diana van Bergen, Phd). For this study, she has interviewed peer specialists who  have been suicidal in the past and who work within mental health care or related fields, clinicians who work with peer specialists and educators and student peer specialists. Themes in the interviews that Annemiek Huisman will address are the unique role and pitfalls of peer specialists who work with suicidal care consumers, and what this implies for the education of peer specialist and the policy of mental health care services.

Last modified:31 October 2017 11.06 a.m.

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