The significant contribution made by peer support workers in the mental health and addiction system is highlighted in a new insights paper released today by Te Hiringa Mahara – Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission.

The findings of the Peer Support Workforce Insight Paper include calls to draw on this workforce’s unique first-hand understanding of distress, addiction and recovery, and to substantially grow and better support this crucial workforce.

essential support to medical professionals

“There is a strong case for the peer workforce to play a greater role in supporting people experiencing mental distress or addiction,” said Te Hiringa Mahara CEO Karen Orsborn.

“Peer support workers connect with people in a unique way based on the rich experiences that they bring. The focus on strengths and connection is something that empowers people and inspires hope.

“Peer support workers are a vital part of the frontline workforce, but they have a wider role too. Alongside other lived experience roles, they can help transform the landscape of mental health and addiction services,” Ms Orsborn said.

“There is huge potential for further development of the Māori peer workforce to work from a Te Ao Māori perspective, which incorporates mātauranga Māori, tikanga, and kawa.

The paper provides an overview of peer workforce and reports on research data and findings from a series of focus groups Te Hiringa Mahara ran in late 2022.

“There has been significant investment across the mental health and addiction system in recent years and it is positive to see the additional peer support roles. Peer support workers make up approximately 3.4% of the total workforce and there is much more to do to increase the number and proportion of the total workforce that are peer workers.”

“We were told that a paradigm shift is needed and that developing the peer support and lived experience workforce is a critical priority,” Ms Orsborn said.

Download a copy of the report

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