Investing in peer support in emergency departments a creative and smart move

Our statement
Found in: News / Statements
Date: 20 March 2024

The Mental Health Foundation (MHF) are delighted to hear a new mental health and addiction peer support service will be funded in hospital emergency departments (EDs), a solution long advocated for by the MHF and others in the sector.

The announcement, made this morning by Mental Health Minister Matt Doocey, will see peer support specialists – or trained professionals who have experienced their own mental health and addiction challenges – better support the at least 13,000 people in crisis presenting to EDs each year.  

The initiative will be funded in four large hospitals from July onwards, with a further four hospitals planned for the following year. If successful, the initiative will roll out across the country.

A $1,000,000 workforce fund spent across the two years will support the initiative with Level 4 NZ Certificate in Health and Wellbeing training. 

“Investing in peer support in emergency departments is a creative move, and a smart move,” MHF chief executive Shaun Robinson says. 

“This initiative addresses many issues in our mental health and addiction system. It addresses the bottleneck in our EDs for people in distress. It addresses some of the workforce shortages the system is facing. It provides training to help plug some of these workforce gaps. 

“It also provides the one in five of us who will experience mental illness each year with someone who understands the support we need from their own experience - peer support specialists know what it is like to be at one of the worst times in their lives. Providing the right support during a mental health crisis can be a game-changer in someone’s recovery, by avoiding them being unnecessarily hospitalised under the Mental Health Act, for example.” 

The evidence for peer support is strong and growing. Studies show providing peer support can lead to reduced hospitalisations; improved quality of life for people in distress; better rapport between people using services and specialists; reduced prejudice and social exclusion around mental health issues; and improved chances of recovery. Peer support offers benefits both when used instead of traditional or clinical mental health responses, or alongside them. 

“We would love to see peer support funded and integrated across all mental health and addiction settings. It has the potential to benefit the whole mental health and addiction system,” Mr Robinson says.

“We wholeheartedly support the funding of peer support in EDs, and look forward to similar announcements in the future.” 

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