S1 E6: Mental health peer workers

People with lived experiences of mental health are being trained to support others at their lowest moments. They're called peer workers and the popularity of this position in workplaces is growing. So what is it and how can you get involved? We explore this issue in episode six.

Fay Jackson is the Deputy Commissioner of the NSW Mental Health Commission, CEO of Vision In Mind and General Manager of Inclusion at Flourish Australia. She has also been the Director of Consumer, Carer and Community Affairs with the Illawarra South East Sydney Mental Health Service.

Fay’s story of overcoming severe mental health issues to gain her position in society is inspiring. She is passionate and funny in her speeches and has won many awards for her work. She was a guest on the ABCs One Plus One program in early 2017 and a panellist on Q and A in 2015. Her appearance on this program prompted a record number of tweets and emails to the ABC.


Denise Wills  was involved with Taree TAFE as a teacher on the Certificate IV Mental Health Peer Worker courses.

Taree was the first regional campus to offer qualifications for people with lived experience and their carers. Denise say’s “The insight and awareness they bring to the people they support will be invaluable with such a powerful ripple effect across our community.”

Denise has worked with the students to forge strong connections in the community, creating networks and education to the community and employers on the importance of peer workers.


What is Peer work?

According to the Peer Work Hub:

When we talk about peer work in the mental health context, we refer to a workforce that:

-requires the qualification of lived experience of mental illness and recovery, with its understanding of what people using mental health services and their families and carers experience.

-is evidence-based.

-complements the skill and expertise of other mental health professionals with skills and expertise learned from the personal experience of mental illness and recovery.

Peer work is key to embedding person-first, recovery-oriented and trauma-informed approaches in mental health services.

Flourish Australia is an organisation that truly values Peer workers.

In October 2015, they launched the employment initiative “Why not a peer worker”? The aim of the program was to open up career paths for people with mental health issues, based on evidence of the effectiveness of peer workers in engaging and supporting people who access mental health services.


Help services

If you or someone else is in immediate danger, call 000 or go to your nearest hospital emergency department.

If you’re concerned about your own or someone else’s mental health, you can call the NSW Mental Health Line 1800 011 511 for advice.

Having a tough time and need someone to talk to right now? The following services are there to listen and help. They are confidential and available 24/7.