Book of Proceedings: Mental Health Support Workers, could we have done things differently in New Zealand?

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By February 4, 2019 No Comments

Authors: Julia Hennessy

Year: 2018

Event: 2018 TheMHS Conference

Subject: Mental Health Support Workers, could we have done things differently in New Zealand?

Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers

ISBN: 978-0-9945702-3-9


Mental health support workers (MHSWs) were identified as part of the mental health workforce in the mid-1990s in response to the New Zealand health reforms. They were seen as integral to the new model of service delivering mental health services, services that were more community focused and more responsive to the needs of mental health consumers.

In 1997 a national qualification was developed, this provided mental health support workers with a recognised and portable qualification. However nearly twenty years later the potential of this group of workers continues to go unrecognized, why?

Mental health support workers have struggled to be understood for the work they do as well as lacking the basic criteria that would recognise this as being a profession.

They work under limited regulations, they do not have a professional body, their educational programmes are not credentialed by any professional groups and as such their role, their contribution and their value are not well understood.

Traditional health professionals working in the mental health sector have had the opportunity to look at how they could embrace mental health support workers and utilise the scarce resources that contribute to making mental health operate more efficiently and effectively.

This article poses a number of questions related to sector’s preparedness for the introduction of a new discipline in mental health including both the health and education sectors and questions whether these professional divisions are maximizing the opportunities that mental health support workers bring to the sector. This is part of a wider study that examined the role of mental health support workers in New Zealand.

Hennessy, J, "Mental Health Support Workers, could we have done things differently in New Zealand?" (2018), Hear the Whisper, Not the Roar Contemporary TheMHS in Mental Health Services, Adelaide Conference Proceedings 2018, TheMHS Conference, Adelaide, Australia 

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