St Vincent’s peer support in mental health

Liam Buckley and Louise Taylor are at the forefront of St Vincent’s fight against mental illness.

They are part of two pilot projects that aim to improve our mental health patients’ pathway to admission and discharge.

2K7A1023bTheir team consists of five peer support workers whose roles include liaising with the nursing staff mainly at our Emergency Department to ensure patients’ non-clinical needs are addressed as they get admitted into our mental health ward and also when they are discharged.

Needless to say, the peer support workers’ own experiences of mental illness is what makes them an integral part of helping patents cope with not just their condition, but also their social and emotional barriers – all through empathetic listening and encouragement.

Liam is a pre-admission liaison worker and has the task of welcoming new patients to the ward and making them feel at home.

“When the patients come over to the ward, you can often have a good rapport with them and talk to them very easily, and they are very open with you,” he says.

“Once they know you are a peer support worker, they know you can empathise with them and they give that back as well.”

Louise, on the other hand, has the task of assisting patients achieve as a smooth discharge process as possible.

She is focused on providing support that can enable patients overcome the barriers to discharge, particularly for longer stay patients, and assist them to build linkages with their community.

Due to the relatively high risk of relapse in the first four weeks after discharge, the team works to continue to provide short-term rehabilitation support to patients even after discharge in order to prevent relapse and readmission to hospital.

Louise says patients’ feedback has always been positive.

“The people on the ward are very thankful for someone who has come in with a non-clinical approach and that has a shared experience and has kind of travelled that path before – it gives them courage and hope that there is a future for them,” she says.

Peer support clearly complements and enhances the healthcare services that clinicians provide and creates an outcome that changes people’s lives for the better.

Both Louise and Liam feel a huge sense of achievement for their unique contributions have led to mental health patients making a full recovery.

“I think we are part of an up and coming, strong workforce and that we have solid ideas and firm belief that can make a difference,” Louise says.

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