Sup­port at work leads the way

Peer work­ers have lived through men­tal health chal­lenges, says Jeremy Rock­liff

Mercury (Hobart) - - TALKING POINT - Deputy Pre­mier Jeremy Rock­liff is Min­is­ter for Men­tal Health and Well­be­ing.

THE Tas­ma­nian Gov­ern­ment has a strong com­mit­ment to in­creas­ing ac­cess to men­tal health ser­vices.

En­sur­ing Tas­ma­ni­ans can re­ceive the care they need at the right place and right time is so im­por­tant, from early in­ter­ven­tion and preven­tion, to treat­ment and sup­port.

In our Re­think men­tal health plan, we made the es­tab­lish­ment of a peer work­force in pub­lic men­tal health ser­vices a pri­or­ity.

We have started a trial em­ploy­ing con­sumer and ca­reer peer work­ers in pub­lic men­tal health ser­vices, and last year the Men­tal

Health Coun­cil of Tas­ma­nia be­gan to de­velop our first men­tal health peer work­force strat­egy.

A peer worker is some­one who has ex­pe­ri­ence of men­tal ill-health and re­cov­ery, or ex­pe­ri­ence as a fam­ily mem­ber, friend, or carer sup­port­ing some­one with men­tal health chal­lenges.

Peer work­ers pro­vide sup­port to con­sumers and car­ers on their men­tal health jour­neys. They are liv­ing proof the right sup­port gives peo­ple the best chance to lead happy, ful­fill­ing and pro­duc­tive lives.

There is a grow­ing body of ev­i­dence that shows peer work­ers con­trib­ute to bet­ter en­gage­ment and ex­pe­ri­ence of men­tal health ser­vices, and there­fore bet­ter out­comes.

For con­sumers, fam­i­lies and car­ers, peer work­ers of­fer hope, and demon­strate re­cov­ery is pos­si­ble. They help to nav­i­gate the range of ser­vices, and ad­vo­cate for bet­ter ser­vice de­liv­ery.

For or­gan­i­sa­tions, peer work­ers as­sist in break­ing down stigma. Peer work­ers also ben­e­fit through in­creased op­por­tu­nity to par­tic­i­pate in mean­ing­ful ways, as well as em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties.

The new Men­tal Health Hos­pi­tal in the Home ser­vice, which be­gan in March in the South, is an ex­am­ple of peer work­ers achiev­ing pos­i­tive out­comes. Louise Meg­son, nurse man­ager of Men­tal Health Hos­pi­tal in the Home, said hav­ing peer work­ers as part of the team has changed ev­ery­thing about the way we work for the bet­ter. “The in­clu­sion of peer work­ers has given a voice to the con­sumers and car­ers … to en­able us to work to­gether more ef­fec­tively as a team,” she said.

We want to sup­port its ex­pan­sion, which is why our gov­ern­ment has funded the Peer Work­force De­vel­op­ment Strat­egy. This has six pri­or­ity ar­eas sup­ported by 38 ac­tions to en­cour­age en­gage­ment of peer work­ers, and ex­pand the roles of peer work­ers across the men­tal health sector.

It aims to im­prove health out­comes for con­sumers and sup­ports for car­ers, im­prove de­sign of men­tal health ser­vices, de­liver ben­e­fits to the wider men­tal health sys­tem, and raise aware­ness of peer work in or­gan­i­sa­tions and across the com­mu­nity. The im­por­tance of this strat­egy is demon­strated by the time and com­mit­ment of steer­ing com­mit­tee mem­bers, led by the Men­tal Health Coun­cil of Tas­ma­nia. The in­sights of their net­works are vi­tal.

I ac­knowl­edge our peer work­ers across a range of or­gan­i­sa­tions – thank you for the valu­able work you do.

Our chal­lenge will be to con­sider the broader op­por­tu­ni­ties for peer work­ers not only in health, but across pub­lic, pri­vate and com­mu­nity sec­tors. This strat­egy is a step to­wards that goal and I look for­ward to work­ing with peer work­ers, con­sumers, fam­i­lies and car­ers, to im­ple­ment the Peer Work­force De­vel­op­ment Strat­egy. You can find out more at www.mhct.org

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