Peer mental support role in EDs is a positive move

The announcement today by the Minister for Mental Health Matt Doocey that a new mental health and addiction peer support service will be set up in hospital emergency departments is a positive move.  

“People who are experiencing mental distress who arrive at an emergency department will be supported while they wait. This will be positive for both the department and people seeking help,” says Karen Orsborn, Te Hiringa Mahara | Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission CEO.  

“Getting care from a Peer Support Specialist at the ED department can help reduce the distress that people may experience while waiting.”  

“We have yet to see the detail of how this initiative will be rolled-out but we think a staged approach is a good way to start.” 

“The peer support workforce has a lot to offer and it is encouraging to see the expansion of these roles.”  

In recent years there has been a marginal increase in the size of the peer support workforce (an increase of 64 FTE or 18% between 2018 and 2022) but it still makes up only 3.4% of the wider mental health and addictions workforce. 

“The peer support approach and values are critical to transforming models of care and addressing wider workforce shortages. It’s important that the Māori lived experience workforce, who bring a Te Ao Māori perspective, are included in planning.”  

The Commission has provided advice to the Minister for Mental Health that will address other pressure points across the system. 

“We need to step back and look at the system as a whole. We are asking what more can be done to provide a range of options when people are acutely distressed. We need to make sure support is readily accessible when people are first looking for help,” Ms Orsborn said. 


Editor’s note our media release about our Peer Support Workforce Insights Paper, which was published in June 2023: Bigger role for mental health and addiction peer support workforce called for