Peer support workforce employs people with “lived experience”

The Otago Mental Health Support Trust is described by its manager, Grant Cooper, as one “small pocket” of peer support.

It had six part-time staff in Dunedin and two in the Waitaki district and, he said, there were groups in some other places “often done on the smell of an oily rag and done by volunteers”.

The idea was getting “a lot more attention” and a national peer support workforce development plan was in the pipeline.

“Southland is incredibly limited. There is one person down there who works … one day a week and that’s about it, in terms of peer support in mental health.”

Mr Cooper said peer support was a move away from the idea of “helping someone else” to a “co-learning model”.

“As we build a relationship with people and share each of our experiences, we actually get to learn off each other.

“So it’s a little bit different from a lot of other services which are in the helping mode.

“Helping mode can be really good … but the peer support approach is very much about what we call mutuality or co-learning.”