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Webinar 43: The “Alternatives to Suicide” Approach –
Paradigm Shifts Rooted in Peer Support Values

Presented by Caroline Mazel-Carlton and Sean Donovan 



The slides for this presentation will be available soon. We apologize if you tried to join and could not access the webinar. We had technical difficulty with our zoom account and were unable to get it corrected for this webinar. 

Loss of life by suicide has been growing for the past 20 years.  All of us have been impacted, yet innovation around addressing deaths of despair has been rare.  What if peer support could hold some of the keys to new ways forward?  This Webinar will explore the key paradigm shifts of “Alternatives to Suicide”, an approach first utilized in the Western Mass Recovery Learning Community that has now spread across the globe and been featured in academic publications, as well as popular media outlets.  We will explore concrete ways to shift the conversation around suicide by rooting dialogue in vulnerability, curiosity, meaning and collective healing.  We also share specifically about using “Alternative to Suicide” values while offering support over a distance, whether on the phone or online platforms.

Caroline Mazel-Carlton is a suicide attempt survivor who, since moving out of a staffed psychiatric group home in 2009, has worked tirelessly to create change in the mental health system and has developed and redefined peer roles in a number of settings in the public and private sector. In her current position as Director of Training for the Western Mass Recovery Learning Community, she has supported the development of the ‘Alternatives to Suicide’ approach in multiple countries.  Caroline is passionate about reclaiming cultural and spiritual wisdom traditions for navigating thoughts of suicide and is currently studying to become a rabbi.  She has contributed to multiple academic publications on the topic of suicide and one book on her experience skating on a roller derby team as #18 “Mazel Tov Cocktail”.

Sean Donovan is a queer man who has experienced suicidal thoughts since the age of 12, which has led to psychiatric hospitalizations and attempts in the past.  Since finding places to be more open in queer community, more himself, and share both suicidal thoughts and the stories leading to them without assessment or repercussions he has found other ways through.  Facilitating a weekly 'Alternatives to Suicide' group since 2013, with the Western Mass RLC, has been both part of his job and a way of life.  Sean brings these experiences, his advocacy for folks in the psych system and facilitating a weekly LGBTQIA+ support space to these conversations.  Although some days it is hard to even get out of bed, he is also an amateur podcaster and board member for an LGBTQI+ history archives, the Sexual Minorities Archives, and guitarist and singer for Feminine Aggression, a band he shares with two awesome women.

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Peer Support Services to Address the Health and Wellness of People Living with Serious Mental Health Challenges

This Presentation will review research studies showing the value of peer support providers in assisting people living with serious mental health challenges in attaining their health and wellness goals. Development of presentation materials as well as the speaker’s bureau doing this presentation is made possible by a Eugene Washington Award: Dissemination Initiative proposed by the Chicago Health Disparities Center at the Illinois Institute of Technology and the International Organization of Peer Supporters.

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Opinions expressed in this webinar series are those of the presenters and do not necessarily reflect those of iNAPS or Optum.