The contribution of the mental health support worker to the mental health services in New Zealand: an Appreciative Inquiry approach
Hennessy, Julia Lesley
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The discipline of mental health support work in New Zealand comprises a significant part of the total mental health workforce. This study explored the contribution of mental health support workers taking an Appreciative Inquiry approach. It examines how mental health support workers add value to the quality of mental health services by asking “what is working well?” It examines future possibilities for the role of a mental health support worker and discusses what it is that they do that is different from other health professionals in the mental health sector. The findings from this study recognise the contribution being made by this group of health workers, highlighting what is working well and what could be different while examining the nature of relationships between mental health support workers, mental health consumers and other key stakeholders. This study also informs discussion around the regulation/professionalism of the support worker’s role and future workforce development. Mental health support workers, in this study, sought to be part of aspirational service developments. The role of the mental health support worker is different and complementary to the roles of other professionals working in mental health services. Mental health support workers facilitate the consumer’s journey of recovery. They are able to spend time with mental health consumers and not have those interactions restricted through legislation. Mental health support workers provide the human contact sought by mental health consumers because their role is seen as non-clinical and non-judgmental. They create space in the life of the consumer that enables hope for recovery to be the consumer’s aspirational future. Managers, educators and other health professionals require an understanding about what it is that mental health support workers bring to the relationship that they have with consumers and how that knowledge can assist other health professionals.