South Australians struggling with mental health problems could be key to helping others through their own battles.
- CenterCare encourages South Australian community members to use their experiences with mental illness to help others
- One educator said people were staying away from hospitals in the area due to a lack of mental health skills.
- Mental Health Peer Support Workers Use Their Experiences to Help People Experiencing Difficulties
Support services Centacare is expanding a training program that calls for people with “live experience” of mental health issues to become peer support workers.
Trainer Em Temple-Heald said he wanted to increase the number of country-based peer support workers to address skills shortages in local mental health services.
“Sometimes people are kicked out of hospitals when they’re experiencing significant mental health distress and don’t have many places to turn to,” Mx Temple-Heald said.
Mx Temple-Heald, a former mental health peer support worker, says that using her mental health experience to help others is challenging but rewarding.
“It definitely takes a toll on your mind,” they said.
“On the other hand, there is so much joy and connection in these roles, and the impact you can have on others is what you ultimately wanted when you struggled.”
Centacare is specifically looking for individuals in and around Whyalla, Port Augusta, Port Pirie, Mount Gambier to attend training and start a career in mental health work.
What do these workers do?
A mental health peer support worker is someone who has suffered from a mental health problem or has supported someone else and uses those experiences to help others in a health care setting.
At Whyalla, Uniting SA’s Amye Morgan said employees provided key insights into mental health issues and how to deal with them.
“The benefits they provide are what it’s like to experience a mental health illness or mental health hospitalization, what it’s like to be in a ward, what it’s like to be on medication. It’s about personally understanding why and how they were able to recover,” she said.
Uniting SA employs mental health support workers in Whyalla. They perform the same duties as peer supporters, but are not required to draw on their personal experience.
Morgan said mental health support workers played a key role in helping people who had suffered from mental illness reintegrate back into society.
“They can be quite isolated, so even just taking them out for coffee and letting them experience things they couldn’t do on their own. [is useful],” she said.