Roadmap to embed people with lived experience of mental illness in local services
20 August 2021
Today marks the launch of the Mental Health Lived Experience (Peer) Work Framework to ensure people with experience of mental illness continue to shape and deliver the district’s mental health services.
The framework was designed and developed by a joint working group that included COORDINARE, Southern NSW Local Health District (SNSWLHD), Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District (ISLHD), community-based organisations, and people with lived experience of mental illness who also work in mental health services.
SNSWLHD’s Mental Health Director, Damien Eggleton, said the framework will create the groundwork for the region to grow its expertise of people with lived experience of a mental illness, also known as Peer Workers.
“Peer Workers are a key element in our Southern NSW Mental Health service. The Framework will guide us as we develop and grow this important role in our workforce,” Mr Eggleton said.
ISLHD’s Director of Mental Health, Julie Carter, added that an increasing number of mental health services are actively seeking out the expertise of people with lived experience of a mental illness, also known as Peer Workers.
“Peer Workers are critical for the delivery of recovery-orientated, trauma-informed mental health services,” Ms Carter said.
“They provide a unique insight into the needs of consumers and patients, and can quickly build empathy and trust with people who are feeling overwhelmed or frightened by their diagnosis and its immediate impact,” Ms Carter said.
“Peer Workers can also share their own personal journey and be a source of hope and inspiration for people who may otherwise be struggling to find a way forward.”
Ms Carter said that Peer Workers can also support clinical teams to understand the needs, including cultural needs, of consumers and patients.
“For our district, it was crucial to involve the Aboriginal community in order to learn more about the specific role of Aboriginal peer workers and what else could be done to help Aboriginal people with experiences of mental illness.”
It is anticipated that the framework will serve as a template for a range of Lived Experience Workforces, such as suicide prevention, disability services, social housing, forensic mental health, justice and incarceration as they continue to develop across the health system.
Tim Heffernan, the Mental Health Peer Coordinator at COORDINARE, said that Peer Workers are the fastest expanding workforce in mental health.
“We need to create the structures to support this growth. A framework is like a scaffold - it will help us build our workforce with confidence, safety and vision,” Mr Heffernan said.
The perspectives of Peer Workers were sought throughout the framework’s development.
Matthew is a Peer Worker for ISLHD and uses his own mental health journey to inform his work and support others through their recovery from mental ill health.
“I draw on my own lived experience of both illness and recovery to help consumers in their own recovery journey. I am able to help consumers find their own hope and realise they are not alone by sharing my own story,” Matthew said.
Beate Zanner is a Peer Worker for SNSWLHD and uses his own mental health journey to inform his work and support others through their recovery from mental ill health.
“Using the recovery skills of mutuality and reciprocity is empowering for the people I’m supporting and for me because we have a connection” Beate said.
“We understand that we both have had difficulties in life through our mental health. They feel heard and understood and that helps healing.”
The Mental Health Lived Experience (Peer) Work Framework can be found here. You can also watch a recording of the online launch event below: