People with lived experience of mental health issues and recovery are being engaged to provide critical front-line support to others with mental health issues during the COVID-19 crisis.
The Mental Health Commission of NSW and the NSW Government are providing $800,000 to set up a warm line which will enable people who may be experiencing distress to connect quickly with peer workers, who have travelled their own journey of mental health recovery and can provide hope for others.
The initiative plays a critical role given that the COVID-19 crisis is creating additional anxiety and stress for many people, especially those who live alone, without digital access, in remote locations or who are otherwise vulnerable.
Peer workers can be a safe means for people to talk through their issues and concerns, with someone who has experienced life-changing mental health issues.
As many as ten fulltime equivalent Peer Workers are being recruited to run the warm line, which is being delivered by not-for-profit NSW peak body and consumer advocate Being-Mental Health Consumer Advisory Group.
“This is a further opportunity to draw on the expertise of mental health peer workers and to demonstrate the value of the peer worker’s lived experience of illness and recovery,” NSW Mental Health Commissioner Catherine Lourey said.
“Given that people are particularly vulnerable amidst the COVID-19 crisis, there’s never been a more important time for peer workers to step up.”
The NSW Minister for Mental Health Bronnie Taylor said the warm line was a common-sense way of enhancing mental health at an extraordinary time.
“This is a clever and adaptive initiative that ensures people with mental health issues are able to get the help that’s right for them,” Mrs Taylor said.
“With early support the majority of people with mental health issues experience positive recovery journeys and that’s even more important during the COVID-19 crisis.”
Deputy Commissioner Tim Heffernan - himself a peer worker - said the warm line concept offered deep and personal human connection, with exponential benefits.
“Quite often people who are feeling anxious or worried don’t need a clinical response, just someone trustworthy and relatable to talk to, someone who can walk with them on their journey,” Mr Heffernan explained.
“Peer workers are well placed to provide meaningful guidance because they have intimate knowledge of how to deal with the isolation and loneliness that goes with mental health issues.
“The Peer Worker can assist the caller to access additional support, if required.”
Being-Mental Health Consumer Advisory Group CEO Irene Gallagher said the warm line was also providing important employment opportunities for people with a lived experience of a mental health issue during the COVID-19 crisis.
“We are delighted to be in a position to offer jobs to people with lived experience of mental health issues during these difficult times,” Ms Gallagher said.
“We are looking for experienced and qualified Peer Workers who will undergo additional training to meet the needs of the service.
“The warmline peer workers will sit proudly at the frontline of the COVID-19 mental health response and play leadership roles guiding people through some of their most difficult and vulnerable times.”
The warm line will commence operating from mid June 2020 and be ramped up to full operation by mid July, ultimately providing services from 10am to 4pm and again from 6pm to 10pm 7 days a week.
Matt Watson, Mental Health Commission of NSW: 0417 691 884
Any community members who are concerned about their own or a loved one’s mental health are encouraged to speak with trusted support services such as a family GP. Alternatively, find local services via Wayahead’s NSW Mental Health Service Directory or call one of the following support lines:
- NSW Mental Health Line: 1800 011 511
- Lifeline: 13 11 14
- Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
- Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800
- Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636
About the Mental Health Commission of New South Wales
The Mental Health Commission of NSW was established under the Mental Health Commission Act 2012 and came into operation on 1 July 2012. The Commission is an independent statutory authority established with the purpose of monitoring, reviewing and improving the mental health and wellbeing of the people of NSW. In all its work the Commission aims to reflect the experience of people with lived experience of mental health issues and caring, families and kinship groups.