The Center for Dignity, Recovery and Empowerment, the world’s only Technical Assistance, Research and Training Center driven by people with lived experience, has created the INHOPES Institute (Innovating Hope and Options for People who Experience Suicide). INHOPES comprises a portfolio of transformative projects that translate the lived experience of suicidal crises into recovery-oriented practices and programs, including behavioral health and suicide prevention. While traditional suicide prevention interventions derive from clinical expertise, the models developed through INHOPES engage community members in the development, implementation, and evaluation of new program and practices.
ENHOPES projects include:
- Sound Out for Life: Research-based stigma change training for individuals with lived experience of suicide to deliver messages of hope and recovery.
- Stand Up for Life: supportive workshops to explore disclosure and foster communication about suicidal experiences and feelings.
- HOPE group: Peer-led support group based on evidence-based Wellness Recovery Action Plan™ (WRAP®) model, creating individualized plans for coping with suicidal thoughts and feelings.
- Peer Specialist Suicide Prevention trainings: training for individuals with lived experience to work with others experiencing suicide.
- Technical Assistance: training and support for organizations engaging with persons with suicidal experiences
- Tonglen Project: Peer-driven community-based solutions for people experiencing suicidal intensity
Less than 10 years ago, there was little systematic value placed on people's lived experience in the domain of suicide prevention. Building on the mental health empowerment movement, leadership of the Center and INHOPES have been central to both initiating and catalyzing change informed by people who have been there, including new services, policies and practices, and the engagement of attempt survivors as messengers of hope. However, there is little guidance on organizational or individual readiness to employ ‘lived expertise’ in crisis services, communities or behavioral health generally. INHOPES' approach, combining evidence-based practices for self-help and peer support with expertise in suicide prevention, creates a new body of knowledge and practice in behavioral health across siloes. The groundbreaking projects at INHOPES promote hope, reduce stigma and help people survive, and grow after a suicidal experience. They are truly changing the conversation around suicide to save lives on a global scale.
The Center's leadership in engaging with persons who have lived through a suicidal experience was central in creating the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (NAASP) Suicide Attempt Survivor Taskforce and through it, The Way Forward, the world's first set of systematic recommendations for preventing suicide informed by people in recovery from suicide themselves. Leadership of the Center and principals of the INHOPES Institute are pioneers, exemplars and researchers dedicated to making lived experience an asset for improvement in behavioral health and suicide prevention, while promoting and advocating for widespread adoption of similar efforts. National and international organizations consistently seek out Center leaders for training, technical assistance, and consulting on related initiatives, leading to long-standing collaborative relationships that directly assist other organizations with developing similar programs. Through presentations, webinars, and professional writing INHOPES staff lead the field and change the conversation in academic, policy and communities setting everywhere.
The innovations led and programs piloted by the Center represent new directions for improving community health and wellness, building new positive interventions for people in crisis, fostering better engagement with services and reducing suicidal stress, behaviors and deaths. Driving these changes into implementation is one of the goals and focal expertise areas of the Center. The unique coalescence of leadership and experience at the Center has started to gain national and international exposure, attracting formal university partnerships, foundation interest, systems leadership and significant opportunities for state and national funding. The partnerships are already generating resources through contracts and developing other opportunities through grants, cooperative agreements, subcontracts, as INHOPES emerges as the foremost resource for training/TA and development in this area.
As a technical assistance, research and training center, the core objective of the Center is to empower communities through effective knowledge translation, thereby expanding the opportunities for support of people with mental health conditions in all our project domains. Many aspects of our approach to project and programs, including INHOPES drive the focus for replicability. First, each project draws extensively from community-based knowledge and wisdom, making them grounded in ‘real world’ application and purposeful design to meet community needs. Second, projects incorporate theories and practices that already have evidence for effectiveness, building on successful initiatives and leading to well-specified and thoughtfully-designed interventions. Third, the Center develops projects in collaboration with local, national, and international partners drawing from their perspectives and guidance. Finally a focus on program evaluation and research in every aspect of INHOPES ensures solid knowledge base that is designed for the use and implementation of stakeholders everywhere.
Incorporating prior evidence-based practices into the development of Center projects has made existing measures directly relevant. However, the alignment with mental health recovery practices, community needs and values, and specific interest in outcomes related to suicidal experiences result in a need for adaptation and development of additional measures. In suicide research for example, INHOPES researchers look at all evaluation tools (adopted or created), examining them for their relevance and applicability. To ensure that evaluation of novel initiatives pertain to the activity instead of the quality of delivery the Center uses tools to monitor fidelity to program design. Several specific measures around the alleviation of behavioral health problems (e.g., Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale) or change in service engagement are being employed. Most of the measurement development and testing has been around increase in positive or protective factors (e.g., hope, post-traumatic growth).